East Chop cleanup advances

Coast Guard declines to release RFP, citing ‘pre-award’ status.

A site assessment of lead conditions on the grounds of East Chop Lighthouse is expected to be finished by springtime. — Rich Saltzberg

A cleanup of lead paint in the soil around East Chop Lighthouse in Oak Bluffs appears closer to being realized. A proposal is “in review,” according to Petty Officer Amanda Wyrick, a spokesperson for the Coast Guard’s First District. 

The details of the proposal in consideration have not been disclosed. The Coast Guard has declined to provide a copy of the request for proposals (RFP) it originally sent out for the lighthouse work due to, as Wyrick put it, the “pre-award status” of the process. 

The Martha’s Vineyard Times broke the news about lead contamination at East Chop Lighthouse in October 2019 in the wake of its investigation into lead pollution at West Chop Lighthouse in Tisbury. A fundamental difference between the two facilities is that unlike West Chop, East Chop has no onsite residences. East Chop has a lone tower surrounded by a town park. There are no other Coast Guard structures adjacent to it. The Martha’s Vineyard Museum leases the tower from the Coast Guard, and until last year, offered tours of it and rented it for various events. Those activities are suspended. The property is cordoned off, with fencing originally erected as part of a restoration project last year. The fencing was never taken down. Furthermore, the gate to a permanent picket fence that separates the property from the shoulder of East Chop Drive has been screwed shut. The two barriers are being employed by agreement between the town of Oak Bluffs and the museum in order to keep the public away from the lead hazard, Katy Fuller, Martha’s Vineyard Museum director of operations and business development, previously told The Times. Fuller said Monday the Coast Guard recently expressed interest in at least partial removal of the fencing to facilitate a “Geoprobe.” Geoprobe is a brand of core-sampling drill rig. 

Wyrick said Monday the prospective contractor has “not yet started testing,” and is expected to do the overall job in “three phases.” The first phase will be testing, she said, the next will be deciding what work is to be done based on the test results, and the third will be executing that work. 

In a Dec. 4 response to email questions from The Times, Wyrick wrote that the first two phases, which she described as a “Phase II Environmental Site Assessment and Risk Assessment,” are expected to be done in early spring. 

“Based on the results of the assessment, it is anticipated that remedial action will be conducted to remove lead-impacted soils,” she wrote. 

Fuller previously told The Times the museum’s lease is up next year. Asked to verify that, Wyrick simply wrote, “The USCG has an active license with Martha’s Vineyard Museum.” 

Asked if the East Chop Lighthouse was slated for deaccession in 2021, Wyrick wrote, “The USCG has not determined the lighthouse to be excess as yet. If this lighthouse is determined excess, it will go through the [National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act] process and divestiture will be handled by [General Services Administration].”

In response to questions about whether the Coast Guard was in contact with Oak Bluffs and the museum regarding lead at the lighthouse, Wyrick wrote that Oak Bluffs had been apprised of an intention to remediate. 

“The USCG has communicated its intent to the town of Oak Bluffs to remediate soil at the East Chop Lighthouse in FY21, pending funds availability,” she wrote. 

She further wrote,“The USCG has communicated with the Martha’s Vineyard Museum recently regarding logistics coordination in support of the site assessment work.”

Reached Monday, Richard Combra Jr., Oak Bluffs highway superintendent, said he believed there is progress on the lighthouse work. “I do think things are progressing as far as the cleanup goes,” he said.