Legionella bacteria found at two area school districts

Legionella bacteria, which can cause pneumonia-like Legionnaires’ disease, was found in two local schools.

The bacteria was found in four places at Butler High School, a Vandalia-Butler district spokeswoman said. The bacteria was also found in one sink faucet in a restroom at Englewood Elementary, Northmont City Schools said in a Facebook post.

Vandalia-Butler district said, as part of its summer maintenance plan, the district scheduled an assessment of the water system the week of Aug. 10. Results for Butler High School came back on Monday, showing the Legionella bacteria in four locations in the high school’s hot water side of the system, the district said in a press release.

Northmont Schools posted the statement about the Legionella bacteria on Monday. This testing was also routine maintenance. The district hired Solid Blend Technologies to treat the building’s water system. The district still hasn’t set a date for when the work on the water system will be started or completed.

“The overall water system for (Englewood Elementary) was deemed safe as there is a ‘none detected’ marker for other locations throughout the building indicating that it was an isolated incident,” the district said in its Facebook post.

Teaching staff at Englewood Elementary will work remotely.

“It is believed that this is due to lack of use for the last several months as a result of having limited personnel in the building. This is a low risk situation and there is no reason to believe there were any staff exposed to Legionella,” Northmont Schools said on Facebook.

The Vandalia-Butler School District said it immediately scheduled a disinfection of the entire potable water system in the building. That process began Tuesday, Aug. 18, and is expected to be complete Wednesday, Aug. 19, the district said.

“We are certainly glad we took this extra measure and that our system was assessed, the problem discovered, and it will soon be rectified. As always, the health and safety of our students and staff is a top priority,” said Vandalia-Butler Superintendent Rob O’Leary in the release.

Public Health - Dayton and Montgomery County spokesman Dan Suffoletto said public health does not have involvement in a routine testing school districts do. Suffoletto said those most at risk for Legionnaires’ disease are the elderly, those who smoke and people with COPD.

Butler High School is the second school to have its water system test positive for Legionella bacteria. Kettering City Schools had to disinfect the water system at Fairmont High School after an employee was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease and Legionella bacteria was found in four water samples in the building in July.

District officials hired Solid Blend Water Management Solutions, which tested all water systems throughout the 2,300-student school, according to Kari Basson, district spokeswoman. She said the four positive tests were found in restrooms and sinks in “a couple of wings” of the school.

In 2019, a custodian for the school died with links to Legionnaire’s disease. Keith “Casey” Chaffin died in May 2019. Kettering City Schools confirmed Chaffin worked as a custodian at Fairmont until weeks before his death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia that often requires antibiotics and hospital care. The CDC says most cases can be treated successfully, and healthy people usually get better, but about 10 percent die due to complications.

A May 7 CDC document says the coronavirus-related shutdown of schools and other large facilities could increase risks of Legionella bacteria if water in pipes sits stagnant or isn’t flushed for longer periods than normal.

Suffoletto said Legionella bacteria often grow in heating and cooling systems, fountains or other water systems.

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