Legionella investigation leads to the cleaning of 49 school cooling towers

Investigation into Legionella continues

CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WWBT) - The legionella investigation at schools in Chesterfield County has led to 49 cooling towers at 34 schools being cleaned and retested.

School Board chairman Rob Thompson said the bacteria has been taken care of for good.

“We have acknowledged we had an issues, we have identified the problem we fixed the problem our schools have been cleaned,” Thompson said. "We're not going to have the problem going forward. Yet it's only directed on schools. Our business partners out there who have the issues, they say they have fixed theirs, but there is no one else talking about the LP1 tests at other facilities as they are with our school system."

The health department investigation found that the number of positive sites in the county was much higher than expected, though it only discussed the findings as schools during a board of supervisors meeting.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, Thompson says he inquired and obtained powerpoint slides with a visual inspection report from the county health department.

“A lot of it is just focused on CCPS. “We identified the problem, we remedied the problem, and we are not going to have the problem going forward,” Thompson said.

In a statement, the Health Department said:

"We were asked to present specifically on the Schools at the 8/28 Board of Supervisors meeting since the County ultimately has oversight per Charter over the Schools. The same presentation had been delivered to county and CCPS leadership a week to 10 days prior to the 8/28 Board of Supervisors meeting and at a school liaison committee meeting on 8/26 that was also open to the public. At all of these meetings health department staff were asked to present information about the status of the school cooling towers only.

The overall lack of cooling tower maintenance seen at each of the school locations noted in the BOS presentation as well as the total number of cooling towers they have county wide indicate potential for greater risk. This was mentioned in the county risk management presentation that followed. Of the private businesses visited and tested, the maintenance of only one cooling tower was comparable to that seen at the schools.

The test result findings for all twelve of the facilities that were tested, including the hospital and other businesses, have been publicly available on the following VDH website since 8/7 and are updated weekly: http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/surveillance-and-investigation/legionellosis/"

Thompson said he felt the reports for schools and businesses should have been presented together.

Four schools tested positive for the legionella bacteria than can cause Legionnaire’s disease - Falling Creek Middle, Midlothian Middle, L.C. Bird High School and Greenfield Elementary School. A test of Hopkins Elementary School showed that it tested positive for a related bacteria, but not one that could cause Legionnaire’s.

Thompson says a company was brought in to clean all 49 towers as well as retest them to make sure they are completely clear of Legionella. He says the school board anticipates being able to close the chapter on the issue.

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