County Response to Legionella

During a sampling conducted as part of the county’s monthly inspections in August, one county-maintained cooling tower atop the Chesterfield County Administration Building showed a result of 1 CFU/ml (colony forming units) of legionella. This is a trace amount and the lowest possible level that testing can detect. This result is also not uncommon, with nearly 30 percent of all properly maintained and functioning cooling towers everywhere showing similar results, especially during warm weather. By comparison, the CDC indicated that test results at some school facilities showed factors in excess of 100 times higher than the trace amount found at the county facility.

Regular inspections of county-maintained cooling towers revealed no visually alarming conditions such as those observed among school facilities, and all county-maintained systems were determined to be functioning properly.

The Department of General Services consulted the Risk Management Department immediately upon receiving the positive test result. Risk Management’s recommendation to perform a cautionary “shock” treatment was completed, and subsequent sampling has shown no presence of legionella.

Our performance prior to and following the positive test is consistent with our comprehensive preventative-maintenance program, ensuring that systems are functioning as safely and efficiently, as possible.

The Virginia Department of Health has been investigating an unusual number of cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the Chesterfield Health District. As of September 19, Chesterfield Health District has no reports of students, staff or parents in any CCPS school having contracted Legionnaires’ disease within Chesterfield County. Thus far in this investigation, there is no link between any CCPS school and those who have contracted Legionnaires' disease.

Chesterfield County continues to monitor the work of the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS) to resolve the issues with cooling towers at school facilities and the presence of legionella, a bacteria that naturally occurs in lakes and streams and causes Legionnaires' disease.

This is a county-wide concern because of the potential public health crisis. While school facilities are the responsibility of CCPS to maintain and operate, as stated in the County Charter the county government is the owner. Ultimately, it is you the citizen who own these facilities and it’s important for you to know what is occurring in your community.

This information is intended to be a repository of information where general updates will be shared as the county continues to work with CCPS to prevent these issues from occurring in the future.

As we work with CCPS to help them put new protocols in place to keep this from happening again, we want to make sure you stay informed. Please check back periodically for updates.