Closed West Tisbury landfill called PFAS source 

Elevated PFAS levels found near another Island property

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A closed dump in West Tisbury was labeled as a PFAS source. —MV Times

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has labeled the closed and capped West Tisbury landfill a source of PFAS, the latest confirmed contamination on the Island with chemicals that are associated with a variety of health effects.

Testing of two privately owned drinking water wells near the former landfill at 46 Old Stage Road detected PFAS concentrations above the state limit of 20 parts per trillion, according to a MassDEP letter to the town dated May 14.

The town has provided bottled water to residents who rely on the wells. 

One well showed a PFAS concentration of 56.08 parts per trillion in 2022, while the other showed 30.1 parts per trillion in 2023. The testing was done by the University of Massachusetts Amherst as part of a statewide testing program.

Further testing was conducted in monitoring wells about 500 feet from the landfill. The tests showed contamination of 31.28 parts per trillion PFAS in a groundwater sample. 

PFAS is the acronym for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a group of synthetic organofluorine chemical compounds. They break down so slowly they are known as “forever chemicals.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, epidemiological studies have linked extended exposure or high levels of PFAS to a variety of health effects, including altered immune and thyroid function, liver disease, kidney disease, and cancer.

The West Tisbury wells tested below what is considered an “imminent hazard” under state guidelines, MassDEP spokesman Edmund Colletta told the Times.

The town must submit a plan to the state by July 15 for testing and analysis of the contaminated area, as well as its PFAS mitigation efforts.

West Tisbury has previously been cited for high PFAS levels. 

In January 2023, the West Tisbury fire station on Edgartown Road was identified as the source of PFAS contamination in nearby private wells. The town hired environmental consulting and engineering firm Wilcox & Barton to handle the remediation work. 

In 2018, more severe PFAS contamination was found in private wells on residential properties south of Martha’s Vineyard Airport. The contamination was suspected to be from firefighting foam used at the airport.

Some wells had PFAS concentrations of 1,000 to 2,000 parts per trillion. The airport put in place mitigation measures in 2022, installing a substance called PlumeStop to capture the chemicals traveling through the groundwater. 

During the West Tisbury select board meeting on May 22, West Tisbury town administrator Jennifer Rand said a Wilcox & Barton consultant, Amy Roth, was doing further testing near the landfill while remediation work continues at the fire station. 

Rand said a special town meeting may be needed this fall to approve additional funding. The town received a $304,000 grant from the federal American Rescue Plan Act for the initial remediation work. Rand said $147,358 is left from the grant. The landfill contamination will require extra work and more money, however. 

Rand said the Wilcox & Barton consultant is looking at the possibility that the PFAS in the wells had traveled by groundwater from a source other than the landfill. 

Complicating the work is a recent change in federal regulations. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on April 10 that it had lowered acceptable PFAS concentrations in drinking water to 4 parts per trillion, down from 70 parts per trillion, for two of the most common PFAS compounds. 

MassDEP will follow the new EPA standards and drop the acceptable PFAS levels down to 4 parts per trillion, Rand said, although it has not yet done so. States have until 2029 to reduce PFAS levels to federal levels in public water sources, according to the EPA.

“The tolerable levels will be dropping, which could mean a higher number of houses that require treatment or bottled water,” Rand said. 

West Tisbury joined a multi-district lawsuit, filed in federal court in South Carolina, against PFAS manufacturers in 2023. 

Martha’s Vineyard Airport is expected to share part of a $1.1 billion national settlement with PFAS manufacturers, including chemical giant DuPont de Nemours, according to James Ferraro, a Miami attorney representing West Tisbury and the airport in the litigation. 

Ferraro said public water systems would get paid first under the settlement, so the Oak Bluffs Water District, another of his Vineyard clients, will be awarded money, although claims are still being processed.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Euniki — PFAS do not “break down so slowly they are known as “forever chemicals.”
    They do NOT break down– period. Without human intervention every
    single molecule of this poison will be in the environment when the sun goes into a
    supernova in about 5 billion years. It is possible that the intense heat
    from our sun when it reaches that stage ( about 60,000 degrees fahrenheit )
    and completely vaporizes our planet could
    break these chemicals down. The label “forever chemicals” is not a
    euphemism.

  2. This is really awful news. Plastics have taken over our lives and our bodies. It’s even been detected in breast milk. Giving residents bottled water which themselves have microplastics in them may not be a helpful temporary solution.

  3. PFAs break down— but very slowly.

    PFAs are known to be bad- no reason to lie and say they never break down to try to make them look worse. This is why and how the liberal left has driven away decent democrats with their leftist, antisemitic, and manipulative lies.

    When a scientifically uneducated person has to criticize an article writer with a lie, as they are wont to do on most topics, making a statement both personal and untrue, that is a sign that all this person’s opinions on all topics are bogus and hypocritical and unsupported. Reading Wikipedia does not a scientist make, nor does the cheapest research available improve irrational thinking—or turn lies into truths. Windmills don’t hurt whales but PFAs never break down. Both are lies told by the unschooled with an agenda. Hysterics, exaggerations, and outright lies are far removed from convincing anyone of anything— except that smart people reading hysterical baloney recognize it as such.
    —————
    If the ignorant buy smart-aleck bloc of the liberal left is FOR something, like windmills, we can know they’re bad. Libs are the island’s barometer of viewpoints not based on fact but on a liberal, senseless playbook stuck on autopilot. They’re a driverless car. It’s like having a bizarro canary in the cave. When a poorly educated liberal tells people what to think, intelligent, thinking folks can safely know reality is the opposite of what the hypocritical liberal left espouses.

  4. Glass bottles are a healthier choice for food storage than plastic containers or cans. We can make these choices at the grocery store and we can also write to food manufacturers and ask for glass bottles instead of plastic and metal.

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