Landfill remediation considered key aspect of community’s economic growth

November 3, 2014

In Somerville, New Jersey, local representatives and community stakeholders have long looked at the sprawling landfill site in their community as a means of addressing financial woes caused by the recent recession.  The landfill represents the area's largest undeveloped tract of land, with a premium location in Somerset County's center, near the local train station. 

Residents have been calling for remediation of the land to expand the property tax base and give a boost to area businesses. Ambitious plans have been considered in the past, including a shopping mall and major sports center, but the 160-acre site has remained in its current state since the 1960s.

The site was once home to various commercial businesses and served as a railway operations yard before becoming a municipal landfill. A number of environmental studies have been performed, but remediation work was put on hold until the future use of the land could be determined. 

Now, according to Gannett Media affiliate MyCentralJersey.com, the site may soon be moving forward. Lakewood-based Somerset Developers have signed a memorandum of understanding with property owners for a project that includes 675 housing units being built, with additional commercial space. 

"Somerville's revitalization, coupled with the advent of the 'one-seat ride' to New York City, makes it an ideal location for smart, transit-oriented development," Tom Michnewicz, vice president of Somerset Development wrote in a public release. "Looking around the state and the region, people increasingly want to live and work close to transportation, and we're excited to build upon what has become an exciting and dynamic 'downtown' setting for residents."

Somerville Mayor Brian Gallagher estimated that the remediation and development of the property could add an additional $300 million to $500 million to his community's tax base. 

Gallagher explains that more than $10 million in state grants have been awarded to address the remediation of the site and nearby wetlands, which will make the estimated $15 million remediation cost much easier to burden. 

A small stream known as the "green seam" runs through the property. Because it has been running on a pile of garbage on other contaminants for years, groundwater contamination needs to be addressed before the project can move forward.

The source reports that the contaminated groundwater will be pumped to the surface, then will undergo a bio-remediation process and returned to the northern edge of the wetlands. 

"It's coming, it's here," Mayor Gallagher assured residents. "It's really exciting."

Contaminated properties create a drain on local economies and frustrate the current tax base. Environmental consultants help stakeholders determine the most rapid and cost-effective ways of returning the land to usable condition.