West Tisbury School grapples with burst pipe, drain backup

The cost of building repairs is expected to exceed $100,000.

Photo by Rich Saltzberg.

It has been a wet and costly few weeks for the West Tisbury School. First a sprinkler pipe burst from the cold over school vacation and flooded a section of the building. No sooner was that cleaned up than an article of clothing flushed down a drain caused a sewer backup.

While she could not quote an exact figure, Principal Donna Lowell-Bettencourt said cost of the damage to the building and its contents from the sprinkler failure alone exceeded $100,000. She said that the two incidents, the burst pipe and plumbing backup, were “completely unrelated.” School staff returned to the school after February vacation and found a ruptured sprinkler pipe showering the main kindergarten classroom with water. The art room, the nurse’s office, and adjoining classrooms and hallways were flooded.

Martha’s Vineyard School Superintendent James Weiss called the sprinkler damage “significant,” and said poorly insulated eaves seem to have caused the pipework to freeze and burst open. West Tisbury building inspector Joseph Tierney said that the floors in the flooded rooms were ruined, and that the ceiling in the room where the pipe burst is a complete loss and undergoing demolition. Insurance is expected to cover most of the cost of repairs for the burst pipe.

On Tuesday, March 10, school staff discovered wastewater burbling out from floor drains in several bathrooms. Parents dropping off pupils that day reported wet hallways and drinking fountains sealed with trash bags. Ms. Lowell-Bettencourt said a pipe clogged by “an article of clothing from a student” caused the backup. West Tisbury Health Agent John Powers specified it was a long-sleeve T-shirt.

Mr. Powers and Ms. Lowell-Bettencourt praised the emergency work of Jays Septic Service and AP Fortes Plumbing and Heating. They said the problem was corrected in less than 24 hours. Mr. Powers said school janitorial staff sanitized all the areas affected by the backup after the plumbing and septic work was finished.