Legionella pneumophila bacteria

K-12 Districts Battle Major Health Hazards

  August 13, 2019

By Dan Hounsell

Every day, maintenance and engineering departments in K-12 school districts face such issues as too-hot and too-cold calls, roof leaks and problems with door hardware. Two recent developments in school districts in Illinois and Virginia are reminders that some problems facing managers are anything but everyday and, in fact, can present major health hazards to students and other occupants.

In Virginia, Falling Creek Middle School closed "out of an abundance of caution" as the school division investigates test results that showed higher-than-expected levels of Legionella on an outside cooling tower, according to WTVR. The Legionella bacteria can cause Legionnaire’s disease, a type of pneumonia. Since May, there are 10 confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Chesterfield County. On average, the county normally sees three cases of the disease each year.

Falling Creek became the third Chesterfield school to tested positive for Legionella bacteria. The bacteria was also found in cooling towers at other nearby buildings: Johnston Willis Hospital, the Richmond Ice Zone, the U.S. Defense Supply Center Richmond, and Reynolds Metals. School officials say a test was conducted on an outside cooling tower located near the school building and the school division has taken measures to disinfect the outside cooling tower and conduct additional maintenance.

In East Chicago, Ill., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is overseeing removal this summer of nearly 7,050 tons of contaminated soil from the old Carrie Gosch Elementary School, according to the NWI Times. The excavation digs to 24 inches in depth across 1.2 acres of soil east of the school building’s main parking lot.

Three years have passed since Paige McNulty, the school district’s superintendent, hastily relocated hundreds of school children after dangerous lead levels were discovered in yards just south of the property. Since that time, the $36 million building’s future remains largely unknown.

Dan Hounsell is editor-in-chief of Facility Maintenance Decisions.



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