New tests show no lead at Kuehn’s Way

Suspected ‘testing error’ led to false positives.

Kuehn's Way in May. Retesting showed lead was non-detect.” — Rich Saltzberg

Groundwater wells at the Island Housing Trust’s (IHT) Kuehn’s Way site were found to not contain any lead, according to a new report from Bennett Environmental Associates (BEA).

The new report is a reversal from testing done in May, which reported concentrations of lead above the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) action level in nine monitoring wells at the site.

Kuehn’s Way is located at 937 State Road in Tisbury, across the road from the Vineyard Assembly of God. The pocket neighborhood is set to become IHT’s biggest neighborhood to date, according to IHT’s website, providing housing for up to 60 Island residents.

The June 30 report from BEA states that subsequent groundwater testing conducted on June 2 concluded that concentrations of total lead in all the Kuehn’s Way well sites was “non-detect.”

BEA’s report could not specify why samples previously reported Total Lead, but chalked up the discrepancy to testing errors.

“The discrepancy between laboratory results remains unclear; however sampling, or analytical error, is suspected,” the report states. The additional test results make it no longer necessary for remedial action under state environmental laws. The report was submitted to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

IHT executive director Philippe Jordi told The Times the organization was happy with the results.

“Island Housing Trust is very pleased that the groundwater testing performed by Bennett Environmental using state DEP and EPA testing protocols verified that there is no lead in any of the groundwater monitoring wells at the Kuehn’s Way property, where a new neighborhood of 20 rental apartments is currently under construction that will provide year-round housing for 60 Island residents and their children.”

Due to previous vandalism at the site, BEA suspected fishing weights or lead shot may have been dropped down the wells, but scooping and plumping cameras revealed no foreign objects in the wells “that would account for the concentrations of lead reported.”

Each well was sampled for total lead and dissolved lead. Total lead samples are not filtered when collected, as opposed to dissolved lead samples, which are filtered when collected.

“Dissolved analysis refers to the concentrations of lead dissolved in the water, while total analysis includes everything in the sample, including any particulates that may be collected,” John Tadema-Wielandt, project manager for BEA, wrote in an email to The Times. “As far as human uptake is concerned, neither is worse than the other. It is just a measure of what is dissolved in the sample versus what is dissolved, plus what may be bound to particulates in the total sample.”

One well, MW-4, did initially report the presence of total lead, but after the lab reviewed the data, they realized they made a reporting error, and revised the report to indicate all samples were non-detect for total lead.

In an email to The Times, Tadema-Wielandt said he asked the testing lab to look at whether interference played a role in the total lead concentrations originally reported from Kuehn’s Way samples.

“The lab reviewed the results and indicated that they made a mistake and reported their matrix spike as the results for MW-4. When in reality, MW-4 was non-detect for total lead. This data indicates that no concentrations of total lead were reported in any of the monitoring wells, sampled on June 2, 2021, from Keuhn’s Way,” Tadema-Wielandt wrote. “That being the case, I don’t know why the samples collected previously reported total lead, but these results seem to point to a sampling or laboratory error.”

In an email to The Times, Tisbury health agent Maura Valley said she did not know how or why lead was detected at the monitoring wells, since the property is not developed and there is no known source of lead in the area.

“It was good news that dissolved lead was non-detect in the monitoring wells, and the lead level in abutting drinking water wells was well below reportable levels,” Valley wrote. “I will continue to monitor the testing results and report them to the board of health to determine if further action is required.”