Jun 16, 2021

Tests to Protect Drinking Water at Chesterfield, Virginia, Schools Inconsistent

According to a former maintenance worker, district leaders were not keeping up with the required backflow preventer testing.

clean-water

According to a former Chesterfield County Public School System (CCPS) maintenance worker, a test required annually by the Commonwealth of Virginia to protect drinking water is not being done consistently.

The former CCPS maintenance worker, told CBS 6 Problem Solvers that he warned district leaders they were not keeping up with the required backflow preventer testing, reported WTVR News. The employee conveyed these concerns to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), including pictures and videos of water lines that lacked inspection tags.

Between January and February 2020, 42 potable devices were tested in 33 of 64 Chesterfield County Public schools, reported WTVR News. The Problem Solvers were not provided any history of testing for 14 Chesterfield County Public schools.

According to a letter from May 11, 2021, from the Office of Drinking Water to Chesterfield’s Director of Utilities, the Superintendent of Chesterfield County Public Schools, and the Building Official, the former maintenance worker “indicated that backflow prevention devices do not appear to have been tested on a routine basis and the last time they have been tested is unknown. In addition, the caller believes there are unprotected cross connections located at the facilities.”

The letter also details the potential hazards of a lack of cross connection control, which includes: “water cooling towers, boilers, irrigation systems, cleaning supplies connected to the potable water system, carbon dioxide located at soda machines, and submerged hoses into unknown quality water among other hazards.”

"The Office of Drinking Water (ODW) has been in constant communication with the water system since the original letter on May 11, 2021, to discuss how the water system is assisting the schools in improving their backflow prevention testing program,” said VDH Office of Drinking Water Field Director James Reynold, reported WTVR News. “As part of our ongoing investigation, ODW will provide recommendations on how all parties can improve processes in cross-connection control. These recommendations are currently under review.”

CBS 6 Problem Solvers requested backflow preventer testing records for the last two years from all Chesterfield Public Schools, which revealed the district was not conducting annual testing of all devices, reported WTVR News. CCPS received approximately 50 backflow test notices from the Chesterfield Department of Utilities in 2019.

Forty-eight devices at the CCPS fire sprinkler system were tested in summer 2019 at 45 out of 64 schools. These tests did not resume until May 18, 2021, seven days after the district received the VDH notice, reported WTVR News. Forty-nine devices at 45 schools have been tested so far in 2021.

The full statement provided by Chesterfield County Public Schools can be found here.

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