November 3, 2013
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) - School officials in Virginia Beach are trying to find the source of bacteria found in wells used by an elementary school, a library and a senior center.
Water restrictions are expected to remain in effect until mid-November at Creeds Elementary School, the Pungo-Blackwater Library and a senior center on Princess Anne Road, The Virginian-Pilot reported.
Water from two 80-foot wells tested positive for bacteria three times in the past six weeks. The E. coli bacteria, which is found in human and animal waste, was found in two cases.
There have been no illnesses.
"There are some strains that can be highly pathogenic, but we don't have any indication that's the case here," Jim Morris, assistant director of school plant services, told the newspaper. "I'll be quite frank. We're all quite frustrated by this."
The school division has hired an engineering consultant to help find the cause of the contamination.
"Three times in a month-and-a-half is way too often," Dan Horne, a water-quality expert at the Virginia Department of Health office that serves Virginia Beach, told the newspaper. "We need to figure out what's going on."
Creeds' nearly 300 students are being given bottled water and water lunches are being prepared with water brought in from other schools. Toilets are working but water fountains and bathroom sinks are closed. Hand sanitizer is being used in bathrooms.
Creeds is the only school in Virginia Beach that uses well water.
"I haven't heard any complaints," Creeds PTA President Jen Vaughn told the newspaper. "It's just something that's happened."
After the first positive test for bacteria on Sept. 20, which included E. coli, school officials notified parents of a plumbing problem. Another alert regarding water issues was issued after bacteria that was not E. coli was found on Oct. 3.
Phone message alerts issued to parents did not mention E coli until last Thursday.
School division spokeswoman Kathy O'Hara said E. coli wasn't mentioned before because "the feeling at the time was to try to make it as simple as possible for folks to understand."
Water boil advisories posted inside the school, library and senior center said the bacteria was E. coli, she said.
Morris said officials decided to name the type of bacteria in the latest alert.
"We discussed it, and we didn't want anybody to think we were hiding anything," he said. "We want to be open and transparent."