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SOMERVILLE, NJ-The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has given a landfill here a Brownfield Development Area designation. The move is expected to facilitate the cleanup of 160 acres extending from the Somerville Railway Station to the Raritan River.

“The redevelopment of this brownfield area will result in direct and indirect environmental benefits for the community,” says Somerville Mayor Brian Gallagher in a statement, “including improved water quality and the creation of walking trails and green spaces in the borough. The redevelopment will also bring a number of other non-environmental benefits to the borough and contribute to improving the quality of life for all in Somerville, while also making a significant economic impact regionally.”

The project seeks to convert the former landfill into a community resource incorporating open space and development adjacent to the NJ Transit rail station. Preliminary plans envision up to 1,200 residential units, 45,000 square feet of retail, up to 185,000 square feet of commercial and office space and more than 40 acres of green area.

Working in tandem on the environmental assessment of the property are engineering firms Whitman and Geosyntec. “With this designation the borough is much closer to realizing their redevelopment plans because it allows not only for assessing environmental conditions at the site, but also any necessary remediation,” says Dr. Mary deFlaun, principal of Geosyntec’s Lawrenceville office, in a statement. “As a BDA, this property is much more attractive to developers.

Under the state’s Brownfields and Contaminated Site Remediation Program, developers are eligible to recover up to 75% of approved costs associated with the remediation of polluted sites and closed municipal landfills.

According to Barry Skoultchi, president and CEO of Whitman, the local site has been dormant since the 1980s. “We realize that development on top of and adjacent to a closed landfill presents many engineering and environmental challenges that most developers do not encounter on a regular basis and we are glad to have the backing of the state on this undertaking,” says Skoultchi, in a statement. “There are issues of land settlement, maintenance of the landfill’s integrity and a host of other considerations that our team is qualified to handle.”

Key issues include ensuring that the site investigation properly characterizes the extent and types of fill and its suitability for development, securing adequate funding for the project, working with the NJDEP on environmental protection and regulatory compliance issues, as well as partnering with the community and other stakeholders to ensure the long-term success of the project.

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