Chesterfield County launches website on Legionella; 7 schools test positive for bacteria

Updated: Sep. 25, 2019 at 10:57 PM EDT
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CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WWBT) - A new website by Chesterfield is up and running and officials hope it will answer questions surrounding the recent Legionella scare.

Chesterfield County confirmed seven schools have tested positive for legionella bacteria.

The information was posted on the county’s new website dedicated to the recent legionella outbreak.

Among the sites, features are a video on cooling tower maintenance, status reports from Chesterfield County Public Schools, a timeline of the legionella outbreak, Board of Supervisors meeting updates, maintenance reports contact information for county agencies and services and an FAQ section.

The new website is meant to serve as a source for progress updates and provide access to county resources.

According to the website, a total of seven schools including Hopkins Elementary School are listed as having tested positive for Legionella.

The school and health department claim that’s not entirely true. They claim Hopkins tested positive for a different strain of Legionella and not the one that causes concern.

Four cooling towers at three schools have yet to be tested because the county says they are new installations and are not operating, which means there is no water to be tested. Once the towers are started up, they will be tested following CDC guidance.

The county released several maintenance reports over the years.

According to the documents, inspectors found the units haven’t been touched in years and were dirty. In the report, a worker for the school system says he can’t recall the last time they were cleaned.

At last check no reports of students, staff or parents in any CCPS school having contracted Legionnaires’ Disease within Chesterfield County.

In a presentation to the County Board of Supervisors, The Director of Risk Management David Johnson says unannounced inspections of CCPS and Chesterfield County maintained cooling towers will take place starting in November.

“Risk management can now report to the board that as of September 24, 2019, independent lab test results that a no Legionella detected state has been achieved for all operating cooling towers in CCPS including those that previously tested positive," said Johnson.

According to Johnson’s presentation, CCPS confirms “all active CCPS cooling towers were cleaned and disinfected between July 25 and August 24, 2019.”

Monthly follow-up testing for the legionella bacteria will continue for at least three months at cooling tower locations that have positive for the bacteria.

County leaders say the focus now is on prevention and routine maintenance.

“My professional opinion is that the root cause of the conditions of the CCPS cooling towers this summer, in my professional opinion, appears to be a result of inadequate maintenance," said Johnson.

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