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Legionella bacteria discovered at Henrico facility; county does not anticipate health risk

A trace amount of Legionella bacteria has been detected in a cooling tower at Henrico Jail West, according to county officials. The amount detected is not likely to pose a health risk for staff and inmates at the jail, officials said.

Results of a test of the cooling tower, conducted by contractor Water Chemistry, Inc., indicated the presence of 11 colony-forming units (CFUs) of Legionella bacteria per milliliter. The threshold for a positive test of the bacteria is 10 CFUs per milliliter, according to the company.

The strain of bacteria found in the Jail West cooling tower is a form that potentially can lead to the development of Legionnaires’ disease in at-risk individuals, although the amount indicated in the test results should not present a risk to individuals working and housed at the jail, said Danny Avula, director of the Richmond City and Henrico County Health departments.  

The contractor tested the Jail West equipment on Oct. 8; lab analysis indicated the positive test result on Oct. 16. The contractor is scheduled to chemically treat the cooling tower and remediate the bacteria by Monday, Oct. 21, according to John H. Neal Jr., director of the Department of General Services.      

The equipment was checked as part of a countywide program examining general government buildings for the presence of the bacteria, Neal said. The nine other county general government buildings with cooling towers have tested negative for Legionella bacteria.

Henrico regularly maintains building cooling towers and related equipment, including monthly cleanings and other treatments, Neal said. The county added testing for Legionella bacteria to its maintenance regimen in September, following the discovery of the bacteria at facilities elsewhere in the region.

 
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