By Mary Kremposky McArdle,
Associate Editor CAM Magazine
Sani-Vac Service has been answering the call to serve in the fight against Covid-19 ever since the global pandemic began to rage across Southeast Michigan. The first call was to clean ductwork in the TCF Center in Detroit. Sani- Vac was part of the team of construction professionals involved in the rapid-fire conversion of the TCF Center into a 1,000-bed field hospital for Covid-19 patients.
“We cleaned the ductwork and air handling units in Hall C,” said Sani-Vac President John Line. “They wanted to clean the systems before patients were brought into the facility.”
The 60-year-old ductwork was lined with fiberglass, a material liner requiring special cleaning tools and techniques that actually takes longer to clean than its unlined counterparts. Despite that fact, Sani-Vac’s crew of 25 worked 12 to 15 hours per day for four days to complete their part of the mission. “Thank goodness, it did not have to be used except for about 18 people,” Line said.
The second call came as the global pandemic was sweeping Southeast Michigan and Covid-19 cases were increasing daily. The caller was a major hospital in the Detroit metropolitan area and the task was to clean and disinfect parts of the HVAC system in areas once used to treat Covid-19 patients.
Given Sani-Vac’s professionalism and its 45 years of experience cleaning ductwork and exhaust systems, the company was more than prepared to tackle this important task. Sani-Vac cleaned and disinfected ceiling grilles, ceiling diffusers, and air handling units, including removing, bagging and replacing filters. The Sani-Vac crew worked in several different areas, including an intensive care unit (ICU), some operating suites and the Cardiovascular Observation (CVO) unit. The CVO is a series of independent rooms located in a large perimeter area.
All of these areas had been vacant for at least a week before Sani-Vac’s crew began work. The Sani- Vac crew suited up in its usual Tyvek suits, complete with boots and hoods, along with gloves, hood socks, and either half or full-face respirators. “We were very protected,” Line said. “We always follow the standards, guidelines and practices established by the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA).” Line himself has been a NADCA member since the founding of the organization in 1989 and has served on the association’s board of directors for six years. “I am still on a few NADCA committees,” Line added.
The Sani-Vac team got the job done outfitted in full occupational safety gear and equipped with a full stock of disinfectants approved by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for usage against Covid-19, according to Line. “We've had a good relationship with Ford Motor Company over the last 30-plus years,” Line said. “They trust us to do a good job. And they like what we do.”
Hospitals typically have High-Efficiency Particulate Visit us online at www.BuildwithCAM.com CAM MAGAZINE JULY 2020 27 Air (HEPA) filters that reach efficiencies of 99 percent. “Hospitals will sometimes have three or four stages of filtration,” Line said. “The most aggressive or most efficient filtration systems will be in ICUs and operating rooms. Patient areas will have at least twostage, maybe three-stage, filtration depending on the air handling unit’s design.
A growing number of hospitals have ultraviolet lighting in their air handling units to destroy viruses. “There are actually compartments in newer air handling units for multiple ultraviolet lights,” Line said. “These are in newer air handling units that are designed for ultraviolet light. In a newly built hospital or in hospitals undergoing renovation, more and more are replacing their air handling units with these newer units with ultraviolet lighting.”
As Michigan began gradually re-opening, Sani-Vac began receiving round three of calls for its services from long-time clients and other companies. “We are getting ready to do a job for the corporate office of a major bank in suburban Detroit,” Line said. “The large, four-story building has been empty because of the stay-at-home order, but the company is preparing to bring their people back to work. At this point, they want us to clean and disinfect the 20-year-old building’s ceiling grilles and diffusers. We will also inspect portions of their ductwork to assess the condition of the fiberglass duct liner. The entire building has this type of duct liner.”
Sani-Vac’s phone is continuing to ring. “I’ve probably received dozens of calls since the outbreak began, and they are still coming,” Line said. “Before they re-open, the building owners we service annually are starting to call, including a major banking center in Detroit and in Auburn Hills. We clean their air handling units every year. The work is done annually, but the Covid-19 pandemic heightened their motivation for doing the work at this time.”
Sani-Vac Service’s clients throughout the Detroit metropolitan area can breathe a bit easier, thanks to the company’s nearly half-century of expertise scouring the unseen pathways and HVAC equipment in hospitals, commercial offices and other buildings. Such expertise is called for now more than ever given the uncertain course of the Covid-19 pandemic.