“Low millions” potentially for West Tisbury PFAS remediation

The town is narrowing down on next steps but officials worry they’re in it for the long haul.

West Tisbury budgeted $170,000 for its next step in PFAS remediation. — Eunki Seonwoo

West Tisbury may be facing some steep costs to deal with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). 

West Tisbury town administrator Jennifer Rand said during the Wednesday, May 3, meeting that a contract with Wilcox & Barton —  estimated fee of $170,000 — will be for the next phase of meeting PFAS remediation requirements. The final costs of this phase will be revealed after that work is done, which includes sampling private wells, data analysis, installing point of entry treatment systems, among other tasks. 

“It’s a contract that I can sign off on but I wanted you to understand that this is also not the end,” she said. “This phase is [$170,000], and what comes out of this will inform how much the next phase is.” 

In January, West Tisbury Fire Station One was labeled by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection as a source of imminently hazardous levels of PFAS in nearby private wells. The root cause was listed as the discharge of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF). Soon after, the town joined a multidistrict lawsuit alleging 15 different AFFF manufacturers across the country knowingly withheld negative information about their products.

PFAS are long-lasting chemicals and break down slowly, earning them the nickname “forever chemicals.” Additionally, extended periods of exposure to PFAS or high concentrations of the chemicals are harmful to humans.

In February, the board unanimously approved using $304,000 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding toward the PFAS remediation. 

“This is going to put a big dent in it, so we also need to start planning carefully for the next round of funding, because it’s not something that we can have a year and take a little bit more money and pay for it and we’re done,” Rand said. “I don’t think we’re ever going to be done.” 

Rand told the board she heard from Amy Roth, the licensed site professional from Wilcox & Barton, that the state is considering lowering the “acceptable level of PFAS,” essentially making water quality standards more stringent. Massachusetts’ current PFAS concentration threshold is 20 parts per trillion. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed in March making a nationwide PFAS threshold of four parts per trillion. 

“If they do drop the PFAS acceptable levels, everybody’s going to be in a world of hurt, I think,” Rand said about expenses to PFAS remediation. She also underscored the town may be in the long haul for the PFAS remediation process. 

Rand reiterated that the next phase would show how much the town may spend. And, while she hoped this will not be the case for West Tisbury, Rand said some towns have spent millions of dollars. 

When board member Cynthia Mitchell asked whether there was additional funding from the state for PFAS projects, Rand said there were. However, she expressed uncertainty on whether West Tisbury would get these funds. 

“Based on the conversations I’ve had with other towns that are in this already, what I worry about is, much like other things, we are going to be at the bottom of their list because our problem is not as big as theirs,” Rand said. “While ours could be in the low millions, theirs in the high millions, so the state is going to target those communities that are just in absolute catastrophe, which mercifully we’re not.” 

After further discussion, the board unanimously approved signing a contract with environmental consulting firm Wilcox & Barton.

The board unanimously accepted West Tisbury Police Sergeant Garrison Vieira’s resignation. Vieira was appointed as a full-time police officer in 2004. He will be heading to the Chilmark Police Department to fill a sergeant position. The board members wished Vieira well in his new position. 

The board also discussed reopening talks with Aquinnah and Chilmark about Howes House renovation cost sharing.


  1. Increasingly ”middle class” owners will be leaving MV due to rising costs in property taxes and assessments. Most of these costs will come due to hysterical feelings about some vague danger rather than science and an increase in taxes occurs. The only good thing is the evacuant will get a high price for his/her house and a wealthier buyer will now own the property.

  2. If the Island had low taxes and assessments middle class people would not want to be here.
    They like good schools, entertainment venues, parks and recreation, and a clean town.
    A lot of places have low taxes and assessments and, no middle class, much of Florida and it’s neighboring states come top mind.

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