Wampanoag environmental testing lab searches for new director

Kendra Newick, shown at work in July, 2011, built the lab into a first rate facility. — File photo by Steve Myrick

The longtime director of the Wampanoag Environmental Lab in Aquinnah plans to leave her job at the end of this month. Kendra Newick and her husband, Ezra, will move to New Zealand.

The lab, part of the tribe’s natural resources department, has a contract with the state Department of Public Health (DPH) to test water samples provided by municipal health agents. DPH requires communities to conduct regular water tests at all public beaches.

In recent summers, the discovery of high levels of enterococci, an indicator bacteria, has led to Island beach closures. The proximity of the lab meant that retesting could take place quickly and beaches reopened as soon as the bacteria levels returned to normal.

The lab also provides water testing services for homeowners who rely on wells for potable water.

Matt Poole, Edgartown health agent, said the lab is valuable for Island towns and residents. He said Ms. Newick was very easy to work with and will be missed. Mr. Poole said he learned from a recent email that Ms. Newick is leaving and that the tribe is searching for a replacement.

In response to a question from The Times, Wampanoag tribe administrator Tobias Vanderhoop emailed the following statement regarding the future of the laboratory.

“The tribe has been the steward of the lands and waters here on Noepe (Martha’s Vineyard) for over ten thousand years. We took on the role and responsibility as the only certified water quality testing lab on the Island when the other local labs ceased operations. We have made significant financial, equipment, and educational investments in our lab and personnel since 2002. We made these investments in order to provide quality testing services for our tribal members, as well as our many Island and off-Island clients.”

The Wampanoag lab is located off State Road, just past the Aquinnah-Chilmark town line, on the shore of Menemsha Pond. It is funded by grants and income generated by testing and is equipped with sophisticated electronic testing equipment that includes an “atomic observance spectrophotometer,” and an “ion chromatograph.”

“Kendra Newick,” Mr. Vanderhoop continued, “has been a valued employee at the Wampanoag Environmental Laboratory, helping to expand the capacity and services offered in the lab. Ms. Newick has chosen to pursue a new and exciting career opportunity at the end of the month, for which her experience at our lab has well prepared her. We appreciate all her hard work and dedication, and wish her the best of luck with her new endeavor.

“The tribe will follow its regular process to fill the laboratory manager position, and we are currently evaluating options that will enable us to continue to provide testing services during the interim period and into the future. The quality of our water is important to everyone on the Island, and we are doing our part to ensure that our testing services continue to meet or exceed all applicable standards.There will be no further comment on the tribe’s behalf.”