Office Hours:
Monday Friday
9 am to 5 pm


Air and Water Monitoring

The Natural Resources Department of the Wampanoag Tribe monitors the air and water quality on Martha’s Vineyard for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The laboratory serves as the center for a variety of air monitoring programs. The Natural Resources Department provides particulate matter and ozone testing on Tribal lands, and the data is shared with the state and United States Environmental Protection Agency. The site on Tribal lands has become an important monitoring site because we are removed from large industry here on Martha’s Vineyard. The data captured is used for environmental studies, which focus on the bioaccumulation of heavy metals transported through air deposition, to the Membership by eating fish and shellfish. The air program, through a Direct Implementation grant, continuously monitors ground-level ozone, a lung irritant, and also particulate matter (PM2.5), fine particles that can cause a variety of short- and long-term effects.

In addition the Tribe is analyzing the contribution of “deposition”, that is, the air pollution that arrives here from elsewhere. As fish and shellfish are important to Tribal members, both culturally and economically, the NRD also has conducted studies of fish tissue to assess the impact of airborne pollution on Tribal sustenance foods. As Aquinnah has few sources of air pollution, both the air monitors and deposition and fish tissue analyses have helped EPA better understand the transport of air pollutants.

Water Quality Monitoring

The laboratory conducts fresh, salt, and brackish water quality monitoring and environmental research. The Natural Resources Department analyzes thousands of samples each year from Tribal lands, and the Island of Martha’s Vineyard as a whole. Our goal is to protect, preserve and, if necessary, restore water conditions to assure safe habitat for finfish, shellfish, allowing Tribal membership to engage in subsistence, recreational and commercial activities. Data from field sampling helps the department focus on important issues, which tie the environment to the health of Tribal members. The water monitoring program, conducted through a Clean Water Act Section 106 grant, includes routine surface water testing of all Squibnocket/Menemsha pond complex for a variety of aquatic health parameters, from simple temperature, pH, and salinity data, to analysis for chemicals, heavy metals, and bacteria. This information allows the Natural Resources Department to monitor aquatic health and, if necessary, protect and restore water quality in Aquinnah and adjacent communities. All water quality data are reported to EPA, and available on the EPA water quality database.

The water testing program is also developing groundwater, wetland, vernal pool, and sediment sampling protocols to better understand the wider hydrology and aquatic biology of the region. Sophisticated equipment allows us to determine the mercury content in a sample, such as fish tissue, in minutes.

In addition to studying the Island environment and educating about environmental issues, the Natural Resources Department has developed projects that have a tangible effect on environmental quality. Foremost among these projects are projects to enhance water quality. Storm water that runs off roadways during rain and snow storms carries oils and bacteria into wetlands and waterways; using EPA grant funding, the Tribe has installed a device to prevent these oily wastes from impacting Herring Creek in Aquinnah. As a result of that successful project, the Tribe has signed an agreement to pursue a similar project on New York Avenue in Oak Bluffs, where storm water runs down New York Avenue and flows untreated directly into Oak Bluffs Harbor, where Island residents, visitors, and Tribal members collect shellfish.

Other water quality improvement projects are underway for roads in Aquinnah, particularly those where run-off impacts waters on Tribal lands, such as the cranberry bogs in Lobsterville, and Oocooch stream.


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