West Tisbury joins multidistrict PFAS lawsuit

Hazardous levels of PFAS were found in a private well in West Tisbury.

At Wednesday night’s meeting, the West Tisbury select board unanimously voted to hire the Ferraro Law Firm to represent them in the South Carolina multidistrict litigation involving per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — the class of chemicals known as PFAS.

Participation in the lawsuit comes after a January state report named the West Tisbury fire department as the source of “imminently hazardous” PFAS levels in private water wells nearby, with the firefighting foam being the root cause. 

The lawsuit alleges that 15 different manufacturers across the country knowingly withheld negative information about their products.

The Ferraro Law Firm is also representing the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission, who was similarly impacted by the usage of toxic aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), sold by various manufacturers.

The firm operates out of Miami, FL, but “Massachusetts is a significant area of our law practice,” attorney James Ferraro Jr. told the Times on Thursday. “The town bears zero responsibility for this issue. The blame lies squarely with the manufacturers and distributors of PFAS-containing AFFF.”

West Tisbury will be represented on a contingency basis. 

A bellwether trial held in Stuart, Fla is set to take place in June. 

“Depending on the outcome of that case, settlement discussion could come to fruition in late 2023 or 2024,” explained Ferraro. “We are going to seek a recovery that compensates West Tisbury for past and future costs related to the remediation of the affected wells… plus all other costs associated with their PFAS contamination response efforts.”

In the meantime, the select board has hired a consultant to aid in the process of monitoring and mitigating the PFAS levels. 

The state prescribes the actions we must take, we will follow those,” town administrator Jennifer Rand said. “Information will be found here (www.westtisbury-ma.gov/pfas) and kept up to date.”