3D illustration of bacterium Legionella pneumophila
3D illustration of bacterium Legionella pneumophila by Kateryna Kon

A Chesterfield County official told the local school board that the 54 school cooling towers that tested positive for the bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease will be cleaned and inspected before school is back in session.

“Everything is going to be cleaned and tested by the start of the [school] year,” John Thumma, the school system’s director of facilities and maintenance, said. The Richmond-Times Dispatch first reported this story.

Earlier this year,  Greenfield Elementary School, Falling Creek Middle School and Midlothian Middle School were among seven Chesterfield sites that tested positive for the LP1 strain of the Legionella bacteria.

RTD reports that last year, school officials were given $977,000 to pay contractors for preventative maintenance of the HVAC systems. But they needed $2.3 million to complete the work. Thumma said that the schools were not able to provide competitive contracts to HVAC workers to get the help they needed on that budget.

Exposure to legionella bacteria can be fatal. There have been 11 confirmed cases of Legionarre’s disease in the county in recent months, RTD reports, though it is not clear if any cases were connected to the bacteria found in the schools.