SOMERVILLE , NJ - The Borough Council last night approved a long-awaited remediation project and clean-up of the borough’s contaminated landfill, setting the stage for redevelopment of the 81-acre site into Somerset County’s version of New York’s Central Park.

Tomco Construction of Mt. Arlington was awarded a $8,149,918 contract for the 18-month project; work is anticipated to begin in March, according to Colin Driver, borough director of Economic Development.

“This is big news,” said Mayor Brian Gallagher. “This is the first time in over 40 years that there is going to be activity at the landfill that doesn’t involve burying garbage. It’s an extremely large project, something that the borough has been waiting for many, many years,” the mayor added.

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The landfill was in operation for 28 years before closing in 1982, according to Driver. Roughly triangular, the parcel is located south of the NJ Transit Raritan Valley Line, with Route 206 on its west side and South Bridge Street on its east side.

The borough will contribute 25 percent of the cost; the balance of the remediation project is being paid with grants from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

State planners and borough officials dubbed the clean-up effort the “Green Seam” project, a reference to the stream that runs through the landfill before emptying into the Raritan River. It is a seasonal stream, and is usually dry unless there is storm run-off, according to Driver.

Contaminants from the garbage dump leach from the soil and are carried into the Raritan River by the run-off. The water in the underground aquifer is also contaminated.

The clean-up is a two-step project using advanced technology, according to Driver.

The stream bed, slightly longer than ½ mile, will be diverted temporarily to allow it to be dredged and the contaminated soil removed. An impervious liner will then be laid along the original stream bed, with “high tech” clays and soil mixtures added to recreate the stream bed, according to Driver.

A second component of the project involves pumping contaminated groundwater out of the ground where it will be treated and cleansed onsite before it is pumped back into the stream bed.

The end result, according to Gallagher, is that the treated water running through the new stream bed will be cleaner than the water in the Raritan River.

Soil will also be removed from 100 feet on either side of the stream bed and replaced, with trees, shrubs, salt grass and other vegetation planted on the 22-acre remediation segment of the property.

The environmentally-sensitive site will become dedicated preserved property and feature passive recreation opportunities, including walking and bike paths.

“We are in the process of creating a Central Park contiguous to downtown Somerville,” Gallagher said. “That doesn’t happen anywhere. We’re in the middle of a county seat and we’re actually going to be getting accessible parkland in and around a fully built up community.”

The remaining portion of the landfill site will be developed commercially, with residential and retail components, including a transit village adjacent to the NJ Transit tracks.