East Chop Light dig finished

Lead contaminated soil has been removed from around East Chop Light. — Rich Saltzberg

Excavation work to rid federal land around East Chop Lighthouse of lead-contaminated soil has finished. The work was completed on schedule by March 18, according to Petty Officer Amanda Wyrick, a spokesperson for the U.S. Coast Guard’s First District. 

“All remediation is done,” Wyrick wrote. “Topsoil and jute mats were laid down, and they will return to lay grass seed and remove fencing later in the spring, once the weather warms up a bit.”

Coast Guard contractor Renova Environmental Co. executed the work at the lighthouse, which included removing soil from a small portion of Telegraph Hill Park, town parkland that surrounds the lighthouse property. One test in an area of the park close to the lighthouse yielded the highest concentration of lead found in the entire survey conducted ahead of the remediation work. The overall soil removal was expected to “yield approximately 250 tons of impacted soil,” according to a Renova work plan. 

As The Times previously reported, the site was contaminated from lead paint used on the lighthouse. Records show the Coast Guard was aware of high levels of lead in the ground at the lighthouse at least as early as August, 2003. It doesn’t appear the Coast Guard made efforts to notify stakeholders of the presence of lead, a potent neurotoxin. The Martha’s Vineyard Museum, which uses the lighthouse as a historic tourist attraction under license from the Coast Guard, was previously unaware of the contamination.

“I think there’s a lack of trust, based on how long they’ve known,” former museum director of operations and business development Katy Fuller previously told The Times. 

The lighthouse has been closed to the public since 2019. It’s unclear when it will reopen.