Edgartown School ice maker tests positive, then doesn’t


Testing done last year by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection concluded that potable water supplies in the Edgartown School and Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School contained elevated levels of lead (and copper). The state has published these findings. Edgartown School principal John Stevens said he’s disappointed with the state over the matter. In November, the school volunteered to provide more than 100 samples for testing. “We tested every spigot and water source in the school,” he said.

Only one sample returned from the state’s lab with an elevated reading. It was from an ice machine. Mr. Stevens said he opted to retest with an independent certified lab. Those results were completely within normal levels, including those from the ice machine. During the initial testing, tube contamination might have occurred, he said. Mr. Stevens said he told a high-level manager at DEP that the school had retested and come up clean, but the manager was unwilling to change the findings: “I wish they would reconsider when retests are done. Long story short, our water is fine.”

Two ice machines and two sinks tested positive for elevated lead at the high school. The sinks, which were never used frequently to begin with, have been labeled “handwashing only,” school facilities manager Mike Taus told The Times.

The ice machines, located in culinary arts and the cafeteria, failed two successive tests at state labs, Mr. Taus said.  

“It is probably because water can sit in the feeder pipe for a while with an ice machine,” principal Sara Dingledy wrote in an email. “If a machine is not frequently used, or is a backup, the water doesn’t run frequently to make ice. Also, we had a filter system between the pipe and the machine, but the ‘draw’ for the test [was] directly from the pipe.”

Mr. Taus also said that sampling he’d been conducting with Oak Bluffs Water District superintendent Kevin Johnson was guided by a video and written instructions that conflicted with one another. Once they got clarity on the proper sampling procedure, two subsequent tests showed no elevated lead, he said.

Overall, Oak Bluffs water has extraordinarily low levels of lead, Mr. Johnson said. His department employs calcium and potassium hydroxides to balance the pH of the otherwise acidic water to ensure pipes throughout the town don’t leach metals.

“It’s very important for us to be proactive here,” he said.

Lead screenings for Island children are below state average.