by Eric Cureton
Manager, Roanoke Operations

On July 1, 2021, Virginia Senate Bill 410 came into effect. This legislation, which was passed in 2020, requires school boards in Virginia to develop and implement a water management program for the prevention of Legionnaire’s disease at each public-school building in the various public school systems throughout the Commonwealth. The public-school systems already have regulations in place to protect students and faculty from other environmental hazards (ie. Asbestos, lead, radon, and mold).

For the uninitiated, Legionella is a bacteria which can cause a type of pneumonia known as Legionnaire’s Disease. This bacterium may also cause an illness known as “Pontiac Fever.” Legionnaire’s disease is treatable, however in most cases, the infected require treatment at a hospital. Approximately 90% of those with the illness make a full recovery.  This bacterium travels through small droplets of water, becoming airborne from manmade water sources such as shower heads, sink faucets, cooling towers, hot tubs as well as hot water tanks and heaters. Large, complex plumbing systems may be another source of the bacteria if the water is left untreated. The risk of spreading the bacteria increases when water supplies are left stagnant. Over the last 18 months, schools across the Commonwealth have either closed or reduced the time students and faculty are in the buildings, possibly increasing the probability of the bacteria proliferating.

The Department of Education, working alongside the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), have set regulations in place for public schools to prevent the possibility of students or faculty contracting Legionnaire’s Disease. These regulations require school systems to develop and maintain a water management program at each public-school building in the school district, validate the program at least once a year, maintain all files and records, including the results of all validation and remediation that occurs, and make these files available for review. For a much deeper look at these rules, you can visit the VDH’s webpage on water management programs. The Department of Education, VDH, and the CDC all have resources available online.

The EI Group, Inc. (EI) has developed similar plans for clients in both the municipal and commercial/ industrial settings. EI’s team of Environmental Scientists and Engineers are available to assist in developing your own water management plans. For more information, please contact us at (800) 717-3472 or [email protected].