April 27, 2020

Innovation helps county overcome shortages

Faced with shortages of hand sanitizer, anti-bacterial disinfectant wipes and sprays, Clermont County went ahead and made its own products.

Director of Facilities Management Wade Grabowski and Chris Turner, facilities coordinator, tapped local sources for ingredients, looked up mixtures on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, and conferred with a chemist at Clermont County Water Resources.

“It’s a well thought out operation, very effective for customers,” said Grabowski, a county employee for 30-plus years.

Turner added: “Anything that’s asked of me, I will do it.”

To make hand sanitizer, County Facilities transfers pharmaceutical grade alcohol into 3-ounce bottles. (After getting feedback that the alcohol caused dry skin, Facilities added a second “brand” with two to three parts alcohol to one part aloe vera, as recommended on the CDC website.) The alcohol comes from several local places.

In addition, Clermont County — a suburban/rural county to the east of Cincinnati — has purchased a half-dozen four-liter shipments of hand sanitizer manufactured by Fitzgerald’s Pharmacy in Williamsburg.

To produce anti-bacterial disinfectant wipes, the county purchases baby wipes at Wal-Mart, Meijer and Sam’s (never exceeding limits followed by all customers). Turner opens 100-wipe packets, turns them upside down to drain liquid, and funnels in 91-percent alcohol.

As a replacement for sprays, the county puts pH7Q from Trinity Supply in Cincinnati into 32-ounce refillable plastic squirt bottles.

On March 18, the county began opening a storage building 9-11 a.m. weekdays for product pickup. Virtually all governmental entities – everyone from water treatment workers to social workers to bus drivers – have taken advantage of the offer to protect employees and customers from COVID-19. First responders who cannot find the products elsewhere also get them, working via the Clermont County Emergency Management Agency.

Visitors keep proper distancing by waiting by orange cones at the facility’s entrance.

“We were bombarded with requests the first day,” said Grabowski, showing a sheet on a clipboard with 30-plus departments.

Besides the sanitizer and disinfectant, Facilities distributes gloves, masks, tyvek suits and (when available) Lysol spray. They also provide 5-gallon bottles of IMS III New Calgon, used to sanitize restaurants, to first responders. The county mixes two gallons of water with two ounces of the liquid for use in a fogger in bathrooms, bathrooms and buses.

In addition to the innovations in Facilities, Clermont County was one of the first to sign a contract with Battelle for N95 mask sanitation, and offer the service to other jurisdictions in the county. And Wayne Prescott of Fleet Maintenance designed a clear plastic face shield for bus drivers.

“I’m proud of the ingenuity exhibited by the employees in Clermont County,” said David Painter, president of the Clermont County Board of County Commissioner. “They’re really thinking outside of the box to help the county during this challenging time.”