Tashmoo Ave. hydrant test shows low to no lead 

Results contrast sharply with earlier waterline sample analysis. 

A hydrant on Tashmoo Avenue in Tisbury near the intersection of Main Street. Lead levels in a recent sample from this hydrant were low, especially in comparison with earlier results from a nearby waterline. — Rich Saltzberg

A recent lead and copper test of hydrant water near the Vineyard Montessori School has yielded results that starkly contrast with high test results from water drawn from a distribution pipe to the school in June.

In an email to The Times, Tisbury health agent Maura Valley said the new results came from a hydrant near the intersection of Tashmoo Avenue and Main Street. 

“One of the samples has a low level of lead (.0015 mg/L), which would be from contact with lead in the hydrant,” Valley wrote. “The non-detect for lead from the other sample indicates that there is not lead in the water supply.”

Valley went on to write that she’s been in contact with the head of the Montessori School about more testing. 

 “I have spoken with Debbie Jernegan regarding resampling water from the service line,” Valley wrote. “The sample tap was installed this past Monday, and she has ordered a sample bottle from the lab. Once the bottle is received, we will send a sample for analysis to determine if the problem is in the service line.” 

An email Valley forwarded from Jim McLaughlin, drinking water program chief for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), shows that MassDEP believes the earlier samples that tested high were contaminated. 

“It appears evident that the school sample was contaminated by cutting through the service pipe,” McLaughlin wrote. “Proper sampling procedures need to be followed when sampling for any contaminant.” 

 Asked if a sample would be taken at another hydrant located on an island in the circular driveway of the Montessori School, Valley wrote, “There is no plan to do so. At this time we’re looking to collect a sample from the new tap to see what the level in the service line is.”

Asked if a repeat test would be taken in the same location that the high results came from, Valley wrote, “I don’t believe the test needs to be taken in the exact location of the last test as long as we’re testing the same line. By installing a sampling tap where the service enters the school, we’re testing the same service line without having to excavate. My thought is that we’re looking at targeted troubleshooting. If the test taken from the town water main is non-detect for lead, as we assume it will be, but the sample taken from the new tap shows elevated lead levels, it will confirm that there is a problem with that service line and the line should be replaced. If samples taken from the new tap come back non-detect, then we can move on and sample the next plumbing line within the school.”

Jernigan said it would make sense to repeat the original June excavation test in the original location. Reiterating her description of that original test, she said it was “approved, organized, and supervised by the Tisbury Water Works superintendent.”

Assistant water superintendent James Cleary said the Montessori School is welcome to repeat the test on its own. He also said his department is ready to assist Jernigan. “We’ll help her as much as we can,” Cleary said. 

Asked if contaminated soil could have tainted the prior test results, Valley wrote, “As far as contaminated soil, I suppose it’s a possibility, although I don’t know exactly how the sample was taken. Since there’s no regulatory requirement that the school test their soil for lead, any decision to test would need to be made by the school.”


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