Two more Chesterfield schools test positive for Legionella bacteria; bringing total to five

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. — Chesterfield County officials confirmed two additional schools tested positive for the Legionella bacteria at the Board of Supervisor’s meeting on Wednesday.

Hopkins Elementary and LC Bird High School became the fourth and fifth school to test positive for the bacteria along with Greenfield Elementary, Midlothian Middle School and Falling Creek Middle.

The positive test results have not been confirmed in the latest results released Friday on the Virginia Department of Health’s website.

During the meeting, County Administrator Dr. Joe Casey said the school district is awaiting test results for four additional schools.

Legionella bacteria “are found naturally in the environment and are commonly identified in building water systems and devices that are not adequately maintained,” according to the Chesterfield Health District.

“From a discussion with CDC yesterday, they told school, county, and state health officials that our school cooling towers were some of the poorest facilities maintained that they’ve seen across the country,” Casey said at the meeting. “Greenfield Elementary very high score of 170 was far higher than any other site visited, public or private.”

WTVR CBS 6 investigative reporter Melissa Hipolit examined Chesterfield’s HVAC inspection reports over the past year, which showed contractor Water Chemistry, Inc. conducted inspections for the school system.

The reports noted that all HVAC systems in Chesterfield Schools have seen minimal or no service performed over the last two or more years, which could result in negative impacts.

The contractor also recommended Legionella testing be performed on all cooling towers as recently as April of this year.

Since the first three schools tested positive for Legionella bacteria, the school system developed a preventative maintenance plan for the cooling towers.

Casey says all cooling towers have been cleaned and all chemical treatment equipment repairs should be done by September 10.

“However, Legionella Bacteria can grow within three days in untreated systems. So, we need to all be mindful that we don’t create a breeding ground in the interim,” he added.

“As you can see, this county-wide concern is not from an abundance of caution, but rather a necessity of a potential public health crisis. We are pleased that the schools shock treated all of their cooling towers and per the health department, since that shock treatment has occurred, there have been no reported cases of legionnaires disease in the county.”

Health officials: 11 confirmed Legionnaires’ cases 

The Chesterfield Health District (CHD) announced earlier this month that there had been 11 confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease since May 1. On average, the county normally sees three cases of the disease each year.

The cases, the latest of which was announced Aug. 8, involved older adults and people with certain medical conditions, according to health officials.

The CHD said, “because there were no common water or facility exposures identified among cases, cooling towers became a suspected mode of transmission.”

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