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Drinking Water Restrictions Remain in Place at Two Spotsylvania Schools

By Susan Larson

Spotsylvania, Virginia — Drinking (potable) water restrictions remain in place at Post Oak Middle School and Spotsylvania County High School days after an October 14, 2016, routine drinking water test indicated the presence of total coliform and E. coli bacteria at Post Oak Middle School.

Since then, Spotsylvania County Public Schools has performed a total disinfection of the well system, water supply tank, and plumbing systems at both schools, which operate on the same water supply system.

Post–disinfection samples returned clean, the school district said in a letter to parents, but a precautionary restriction on potable water use remains in effect.

“Spotsylvania County Public Schools is working with the Virginia Department of Health Office of Drinking Water, to determine if there are further health concerns with the water quality at the
two facilities,” the letter said. “Once a confirmation has been received from the Virginia Department of Health Office of Drinking Water that the distribution system is safe, potable water (drinking water) restrictions will be lifted and operations will return to normal.”

The complete letter is reprinted below. Italics mark the highlighted portions of the school district’s letter.

October 16, 2016

Dear Parents and Guardians,

This is an update to the notifications that were sent on October 14, 2016, regarding routine water testing results at Post Oak Middle School.

On October 14, 2016, routine drinking water testing indicated the presence of total coliform and E. coli bacteria at Post Oak Middle School. As a result Spotsylvania County Public Schools immediately implemented a precautionary restriction on potable water (drinking water) use. Test results from Spotsylvania County High School, taken during the same routine testing event, did not indicate the presence of total coliform or E. coli bacteria. Since both schools operate on the same water supply system Spotsylvania County Public Schools enforced restrictions on potable water use at both schools until further testing could be completed as a proactive and precautionary response to protect the health and safety of students and staff.

Further testing was performed on the evening of October 14, 2016, at the source well feeding the two schools and at Post Oak Middle School. Test results did not show the presence of total coliform or E. coli bacteria at the source well for the two facilities. However, testing results did show the presence of total coliform bacteria at Post Oak Middle School; E. coli bacteria was not found in the follow-up tests conducted at Post Oak Middle School.

Spotsylvania County Public Schools has performed a total disinfection of the well system, water supply tank, and plumbing systems at Spotsylvania County High School and at Post Oak Middle School. Additional water samples were obtained on October 15, 2016; all samples have returned clean with no presence of total coliform or E. coli in the drinking water. Follow-up sampling is being performed today, October 16, 2016, to confirm the quality of the drinking water in the system.

While post –disinfection samples have returned clean, a restriction on potable water use will remain in effect at Spotsylvania County High School and Post Oak Middle School. Currently, Spotsylvania County Public Schools is working withthe Virginia Department of Health, Office of Drinking Water to determine if there are further health concerns with the water quality at the two facilities. Once a confirmation has been received from the Virginia Department of Health, Office of Drinking Water that the distribution system is safe, potable water (drinking water) restrictions will be lifted and operations will return to normal.

Providing a safe school environment is a priority for Spotsylvania County Public Schools. Please be assured that we take this matter very seriously. If you have any questions, please contact the
school office or the Health Department at 540-507-7400. For your information, we are providing Frequently Asked Questions and resources [following]:

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS & RESOURCES

How serious is E. coli?
The Virginia Department of Health, Office of Drinking Water considers the potential presence of E. coli a serious health concern. It is for this reason that Spotsylvania County Schools has taken a proactive response to this situation.

What is Total Coliform bacteria and E. coli?
Total coliform bacteria consist of environmental and fecal types. Total coliform bacteria occur almost everywhere (soil, homes, your hands, etc.). Most of the total coliforms are not considered
pathogens under normal conditions. E. coli is a species of coliform bacteria that is directly linked to fecal contamination by the wastes of warm-blooded animals, including humans. Some strains are pathogens in humans.

What are the symptoms of E. coli exposure?
Symptoms of E. coli exposure are very similar to those seen with the flu or food poisoning. Symptoms include diarrhea, cramps, nausea, and headaches.

How long does it take for symptoms to start?
Typically it takes anywhere from 3 to 4 days for symptoms to show.

What do I do if I am sick or my student is sick?
Seek care from your primary care physician or healthcare provider. Your doctor may call the Virginia Department of Health Office of Drinking Water at (804) 864 7500 for information about the boil water notice. Your doctor should notify the local health department if he or she suspects your illness was caused by microorganisms in the water. The local Health Department can be reached at 540-507-7400.

Some people may be more vulnerable to contaminants. People with weakened immune systems, such as people with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, organ transplant patients, people with HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders, some elderly, and infants can be at greater risk from infections. These people should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers. Guidelines on ways to reduce the risk of infection from microbiological contaminants are available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline (800-426-4791).

What will my student see upon returning to school on Monday?
Students and Staff will notice that a “Drinking Water Warning” has been posted at both Spotsylvania County High School and Post Oak Middle School. This notice will indicate that the water should not be used for consumption unless it had been boiled or disinfected. Water fountains will remain out of service until restrictions are lifted. Bottled water will be provided upon request at no charge. Hand sanitizer will be provided in the restrooms.

How will this impact food service at the schools?
Bottled water will be primarily used in food preparation. Any other water used will be boiled for 1 minute prior to use in compliance with the recommendation of Virginia Department of Health, Office of Drinking Water.

Where can I find more information on the Drinking Water Warning and E. coli?
Additional information may be obtained online from the Virginia Department of Health, Office of Drinking Water at http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/drinking-water/boil-water-faqs/.

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