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High lead found in water on Vineyard school property; source remains a mystery

Vineyard Montessori in Vineyard Haven
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Vineyard Montessori School in Vineyard Haven

An extremely high level of lead has been detected in water from a pipe outside the Vineyard Montessori School, and the source is a mystery.

Tisbury Health Agent Maura Valley said the lead does not appear to be coming from the town water supply.

“The line going into the old building has elevated lead levels,” she said. “The line going into the new school is non-detect for lead, and they're coming off of the same water main.”

The Martha’s Vineyard Times reported that a sample from an underground pipe on the property contained more than 18,000 parts per billion of lead.

That’s similar to levels found during the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

“I have no idea how you would get that high of a number,” Valley said. “I'm not a water person, but that's a really high number.”

The level of lead detected at an indoor tap was far lower, but federal authorities say there is no known, safe level of lead in a child’s blood.

James Cleary, assistant water superintendent for the Tisbury Water Works, said the department is working with Valley, the school, and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to determine the source of the lead.

DEP has been in touch with Tisbury town officials and confirmed that the town is seeking to re-test the site, according to DEP spokesman Ed Coletta.

“Issues have been raised about how the samples were taken,” he said in an email.

The school is using bottled water, Valley said.

Lead was discovered in indoor water at the Montessori school and public Tisbury School earlier this year.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.