By Ken MacLeod


MARBLEHEAD (CBS) – Some North Shore students thought they were growing healthy, organic vegetables at school, but that effort was foiled, the school now says by custodians contaminating the crop. School officials say they just found out the custodians have been dumping water with chemical cleaners into and around the garden for years.

As the Carnevale brothers played Wiffle Ball in their yard Wednesday night, their parents were more focused on the curve ball they got at school. “My first reaction was just shock,” said Amy Carnevale.

She’s talking about the superintendent’s admission that the organic garden at the Bell School was hardly organic. “Dirty mop water, with chemicals, had been dumped directly into the organic garden for years,” Carnevale said.

Garden at Bell School in Marblehead (WBZ-TV)

Water that included floor strippers, cleaners, and waxes in a garden where teachers and students combed through the soil with their hands and picked veggies to take home.

An email to parents from the school superintendent blames the contamination on a lack of judgment by the custodial staff and urges anyone who’s eaten vegetables from the garden to call the Board of Health.

“Certainly it’s reasonable to think that that would have made children sick,” Carnevale said.

Sign in garden at Bell School in Marblehead (WBZ-TV)

Neither the superintendent or the health director returned WBZ’s calls.

One man didn’t want his grandson identified, but wonders if the youngster’s trip to the ER last fall was triggered by tainted veggies. “The school department’s response has been woefully inadequate,” the grandfather said. “This is like going to a hazardous waste area and saying OK let’s put a garden here.”

Others feel that over-hypes the danger but agree the dirt needs to be tested. The lower gardens have already been stripped of plants and the top two feet of soil will be replaced with organic.

“I do hold the school accountable,” Carnevale said. Especially since the Carnevale’s were just notified that the school drinking fountains their sons use have too much lead and copper.

Ken MacLeod

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