Emails from 2018 suggest Chesterfield high school teacher was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease

Chesterfield County

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Amid deepening concerns following the discovery of strains of Legionella bacteria at seven Chesterfield schools, one Chesterfield elementary school principal assured parents last week that the Health Department had no reports of any students, staff or parents in any school having contracted Legionnaires’ disease within the county.

On Wednesday, 8News obtained emails from 2018 that suggest a Cosby High School teacher was diagnosed with the disease. The emails do not make it clear whether or not the teacher contracted the disease while at the school.

Cosby High School Principal Benjamin M. Snyder discloses that a teacher was “recently diagnosed with legionnaires disease” in an email from Dec. 12, 2018, to Alan Lederman, Environmental Health and Safety Manager at Chesterfield County Dept. of Risk Management.

Lederman replies to Snyder’s email with the various possible ways the teacher could have been exposed. He also shares plans to look into water treatment records for Cosby H.S.

“Ben – I don’t believe there is value in having the chiller water tested for legionella, as it is very common, can be found in both potable and non-potable water sources and there are no standards for ‘acceptable’ legionella levels,” Lederman’s email stated. “The teacher could have been exposed to airborne legionella bacteria at a gym hot tub, decorative water fountain, or even their own tap or shower. With that being said, I will work with Facilities to pull the water treatment records for the chillers at Cosby and send them over to you once I receive them.”

In another email, dated Dec. 13, 2018, a member of CCPS’ Facilities Maintenance and Construction named Kathy Sylvia sends Lederman a document with the title June Chesterfield Schools Service. After receiving the report, Lederman sends Sylvia the following email:

In her response, Sylvia informs Lederman the school district “should not be doing anything unless we speak to Water Chemistry first which I can do.” She then explains she reached out to Water Chemistry, the Roanoke-based contractor hired to inspect the HVAC systems at Chesterfield schools, to figure out “when they can make their next monthly treatment.” Sylvia makes it clear in the email: “Cosby will be on the top of the list.”

Lederman provided Chesterfield school officials with guidelines “regarding cleaning of cooling towers” at Cosby High School on Jan. 3, 2019.

8News reached out to Alberta Smith Elementary Principal Jana Kline on Wednesday regarding the letter she sent parents on Sept. 11 that said: “The Health Department does not have any reports of students, staff or parents in any Chesterfield County school having contracted Legionnaires’ disease within Chesterfield County.” Kline did not immediately respond to 8News’ inquiry.

A Health Department spokesperson told 8News they were not aware of the teacher’s diagnosis in 2018 but were looking into it.

This story is developing. Stay with 8News for updates.

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