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The Chesterfield County School Board on Monday heard a presentation from John Thumma, the school system's director of facilities and maintenance, about efforts to clean and inspect the school system's cooling towers amid recent testing that found three Chesterfield schools had the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease.

Those schools are Greenfield Elementary School, Falling Creek Middle School and Midlothian Middle School.

"Everything is going to be cleaned and tested by the start of the [school] year," Thumma said.

School officials said last week that they would clean each of the 54 cooling towers by the time school starts out of "an abundance of caution," without being prompted by health officials to undertake that work.

The three schools were among seven Chesterfield sites, including Johnston-Willis Hospital and Defense Supply Center Richmond, that tested positive for the LP1 strain of the Legionella bacteria. Health officials have said they cannot say at this point whether any of those sites caused the 11 confirmed cases of Legionnaires' disease in the county in recent months.

School officials said that last year they had been given $977,000 to pay contractors for preventive maintenance of HVAC systems when they actually needed $2.3 million for that work.

The system tried with little success to hire people who would maintain the systems, Thumma said, adding the public schools can't provide a competitive salary to draw an employee to handle preventive maintenance for its HVAC systems.

Thumma said the school system is preparing to put out a request for proposals for four or five vendors to provide a wide range of work including preventive maintenance, repair and replacement of HVAC systems.

sgorman@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6885

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