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 quality 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, nutrients, 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 is reported to the EPA, and is available to the public 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.