How Clermont County is keeping essential employees safe while out on the job

Posted at 5:00 AM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-30 12:36:22-04

CLERMONT COUNTY — As grocery stores battle to fill empty shelves back up with hand sanitizer, anti-bacterial disinfectant wipes and sprays, Clermont County Facilities decided to create its own.

With some help from chemists at Clermont County Water Resources and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, facilities coordinator Chris Turner learned how to make all of those products and hand them out to essential employees.

“On the early stages we had regular disinfecting wipes and Lysol that has since dried up with the coronavirus and all the other stuff going on,” Turner said.

They quickly found a solution that involved a lot of research.

“We started thinking outside the box a little bit,” he said. “We had learned from a couple of chemists [from Clermont County Water Resources], that we can take some baby wipes and get some of the liquid out of them and add alcohol to it to make disinfecting wipes.”

He demonstrated the process, which includes opening a 100-baby wipe packet, flipping it around and squeezing the liquid out of the wipes, and using a funnel to pour in 91-percent alcohol.

“We started going around to different stores and getting all the baby wipes that we could,” he recalled. “You’re trying to find some of the alcohol and mixing together alcohol with the baby wipes to produce our disinfecting wipes since we can’t find anywhere else and our supplier can’t find any.”

Facilities also figured out how to make hand sanitizer. The process includes transferring pharmaceutical-grade alcohol and part aloe vera into bottles. Early on in the process, the department was able to get the alcohol locally, from Fitzgerald’s Pharmacy in Williamsburg.

“This is 80%, alcohol, antiseptic, and it's basically a clear liquid they didn't have any gel for it, but it works the same as regular hand sanitizer,” Turner said.

Any governmental entity or first responder who can’t find the products anywhere else can pick up the product from 9 to 11 a.m. any day of the week. Since sanitizer is a chemical, Facilities keeps a detailed record of the products being exchanged, through an SDS Sheet, or a safety data sheet.

“It’s right here on hand for them to check out to make sure everything’s safe,” said Clermont County Safety Coordinator Gary Caudill. “It’s here to check and see if there’s an emergency situation and if they need more information on the back as far as medical, but all these products are covered under the SDS sheet.”

Facilities also has an abundance of nitrile gloves in different sizes, Caudill said. The department also recently signed a contract that will allow them to reuse their N95 masks by sending them off to Columbus in a 2x2 foot box to be disinfected.

“We take the N95 masks and we’ll put a code on it to make sure that we get the same one back,” Caudill said. “Then send it off to Columbus in a double biohazard bag, clean the bag before it leaves here, put it in a box, ship it to Columbus, the person we’ve contracted with, they will clean those and send them back approximately three days later.”

The County has also been able to provide bottles of Calgon for people to disinfect essential things such as ambulances, fire trucks, buses, bathrooms, and even restaurants.

“This is the bulk application that we’ve been sending out to the first responders,” said Director of Facilities Management Wade Grabowski, as he held up a large machine. “We get calls daily. I had about dozen calls from other local counties, jurisdictions, local police departments."

As businesses start opening up little by little, Facilities also created a plexiglass that will create a barrier between employees and clients.

The creation of their plexiglass

“We're not actually making anything. We're just combining it by the CDC and in doing what we can to get what we need," Turner said.