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West Orange School District Releases Update on Legionella Testing

WEST ORANGE, NJ – On Sept. 25 the West Orange School District provided an update on Legionella testing in all 12 schools. Letters are being mailed to all families in the school district and the update is posted on the district website here.


Following the discovery of Legionella in various town hall locations in July, a parent whose child attended a summer program at Redwood Elementary School contacted the school district to say their child had been affected with flu-like symptoms similar to those of Legionella.


At that time, the district hired Garden State Environmental to conduct Legionella testing. On Aug. 14, results from the indicated that four of the 15 samples taken at Redwood Elementary School contained very low levels of Legionella bacteria.


In conjunction with Garden State Environmental, township Health Department representatives, and district personnel took place to discuss test results and remediation efforts so resources could be compared and utilized effectively between the District and Township.


Township Director of Health, Theresa DeNova stated: “We have been advised of the following facts with regard to Legionella: (a) it is not contagious, person to person (b) it is not airborne (c) it cannot be contracted by drinking or touching water; and, (d) the way it is contracted is by inhaling contaminated mist.” Cooling mist is created by cooling towers used by air conditioning systems.


On Aug. 30, New Jersey American Water tested sinks and water fountains at Redwood Elementary School for coliform bacteria. The results were satisfactory in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act standards.


John Spangler, Manager of Water Quality and Environmental Compliance, New Jersey American Water stated: "Water samples from Redwood Elementary School collected by New Jersey American Water on 8/30/18 met standards set forth in the Safe Drinking Water Act."


Even though the Redwood Elementary School samples met the standard, OMEGA Environmental was hired to perform a disinfection procedure using a hyper-chlorinated solution on Sept. 10- and 11. 


The procedure includes the following:


(1) chlorine is pumped into the hot water heater and remains in the hot water tank for four hours to eliminate any bacteria,


(2) chlorine is then pumped through the hot water piping system and remains in the system for fourteen hours to eliminate any bacteria,


(3) chlorinated water is drained from the hot water tank and hot water piping system and flushed with fresh water,


(4) water samples are drawn and retested after the hyper-chlorination procedure to verify that the water again meets the Safe Drinking Water Act standards.


Additional steps were taken:


(1) installing filters on the water sources that tested positive,


(2) replacing faucets in the affected areas,


(3) proactively and temporarily covering all water fountains despite the fact that the Legionella bacteria only presents a risk from exposure to airborne droplets and not from drinking affected water,


(4) removing, cleaning and sanitizing all aerators (screens) in all rooms, and


(5) where possible, changes in the plumbing systems will be done to minimize the potential for future bacterial growth.


To complete the process, the remediation is being carried out on weekends. 


Based on the findings at Redwood, the school district tested all 12 schools, Central Office, and the Bus Depot for Legionalla bacteria. (Results have not yet been received for the Transportation Department.)


Samples for Legionella bacteria were positive in the Administration Building and all schools except Liberty Middle School, Betty Maddalena Early Learning Center, and Kelly Elementary School. To view the results for each building, click here.


All affected schools will undergo the same remediation as Redwood Elementary School by Omega Environmental, followed by retesting by Garden State Environmental. Water bottles should be available at all schools until testing and remediation is completed.


The remediation schedule is as follows:


Mt. Pleasant had the chlorination process completed on Sept. 19 and was retested for the Legionella bacteria on Sept. 24.


St. Cloud had the chlorination process completed on Sept. 22 and will be retested on Sept. 27.


Hazel will have the chlorination process completed on Sept. 28 and 29. Retesting will be done approximately four days after the chlorination process.


Gregory, Washington and the Administration Building will have the chlorination process completed on Oct. 5 and 6, Oct. 12 and 13 or Oct. 19 and 20.  Retesting will be done approximately four days after the chlorination process.


Edison and Roosevelt will have the chlorination process completed on Oct. 26 or 27 or Nov. 2 and 3. Retesting will be done approximately four days after the chlorination process.


West Orange High School will be completed on Nov. 8-11. Retesting will be done approximately four days after the chlorination process.


The results from the retesting will take approximately 7-10 days for each building. A new update will be provided when the chlorination process is completed and/or when retesting results are available.




Cynthia Cumming
Sept. 26, 2018