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Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Evolution of Standard Cleaning Practices

From personal hygiene to food-related activities to facility maintenance, cleaning is important to a community's and individual's health status. Thorough cleaning practices kill harmful bacteria and viruses and prevent the infestation of rodents and other pests who may carry a variety of diseases.

Over the past century cleaning practices evolved from simple soap and water to synthetic disinfectants and sanitizers to Electrochemical Activation (ECA).

From an excavation of ancient Babylon, evidence of soap-like material dates back to 2800 B.C. Though it was used throughout various civilizations, soap was generally only available to the elite; the common population was relegated to cleaning with water and other clever alternatives. By the mid-1800's, a series of soap-related inventions enabled the widespread availability of inexpensive soap. Until the development of synthetic detergent in the early 1900's, basic soap remained the primary cleaning product.

Cleaning Basics
According to many recognized sites, including the National Food Service Management Institute Keep Food Safe: Clean, Sanitize, and Disinfect document, three main cleaning practices are necessary for healthy environments:
Typical commercial cleaning set-up
photo courtesy of Rubbermaid
  • Cleaning - removes dirt & debris from the targeted area; sanitizing and disinfecting require clean surfaces.
  • Sanitizing - reduces harmful bacteria with high heat or chemical solutions.
  • Disinfecting - stronger than a sanitizer, a disinfectant solution kills bacteria and viruses on targeted surfaces.
Beyond quality solutions, consistent tools and practices are important for effective custodial programs. It is important to read product labels and follow the designated dwell or contact times required to disinfect surfaces. According to numerous sources, disinfectant dwell times may be as long as ten minutes.

Future articles will further address cleaning tools and practices.

Toxic-Cleaning Development
The 1916 development of synthetic detergent in Germany was a response to a World War I-related shortage of fats for making soap. Subsequently, chemical companies introduced a plethora of cleaning solutions designed to sanitize, disinfect, and sterilize. Though generally effective, many of the solutions were toxic when inhaled or ingested by humans or other living beings.

Published in September 1962, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson is credited as the catalyst for the environmental movement. Though it addressed the devastating ramifications of DDT pesticide use, Silent Spring showcased the far-reaching impact of toxic-chemical use whether for pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, or cleaning.

The August 2015 Natural Resources Defense Council The Story of Silent Spring: How a courageous woman took on the chemical industry and raised important questions about humankind's impact on nature  explains Silent Spring's legacy:
Photo courtesy of Peter Scales 
“What if the birds all die? Rachel Carson 
and “Silent Spring””
"The most important legacy of Silent Spring, though, was a new public awareness that nature was vulnerable to human intervention. Carson had made a radical proposal: that, at times, technological progress is so fundamentally at odds with natural processes that it must be curtailed. Conservation had never raised much broad public interest, for few people really worried about the disappearance of wilderness. But the threats Carson had outlined—the contamination of the food chain, cancer, genetic damage, the deaths of entire species—were too frightening to ignore. For the first time, the need to regulate industry in order to protect the environment became widely accepted, and environmentalism was born."
As the environmental movement grew, awareness of toxic cleaning solutions' impact on the indoor and outdoor environments fueled the development of green cleaning alternatives.

Founded in 1989, Green Seal (GS) is a national non-profit dedicated to promoting a sustainable economy through their Environmental Leadership Standards. GS Standards address performance, health, and sustainability criteria. Cleaning products are one of many categories reviewed and certified within the rigorous Standards. In addition to the long-standing GS cleaning product certification standards, in July 2013 GS issued the GS Standard for Commercial & Institutional Services.

Similar to DDT applications, toxic cleaning solutions have long-term implications for cleaning staff and residents of the facility, whether a home or commercial building. According to the February 18, 2018, Newsweek Impact of Cleaning Products on Women's Lungs as Damaging as 20-a-Day Cigarette Habit: Study article, women who used the cleaning products regularly had a markedly decreased lung capacity along with increased rates of asthma. Decreased lung capacity is attributed to the damage that cleaning agents cause to the mucous membranes lining the airways.

Conscious Cleaning
Though they are an improvement over toxic-cleaning solutions, many green cleaning products are synthetic in nature and may pose harm to individuals and the environment. Conscious cleaning solutions cause no harm whether ingested via breath or swallowing or flushed into sewer systems. Vinegar and baking soda are two common household products that are excellent conscious cleaning solutions.

As stated in the Cleaning Basics section, beyond cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting are important to maintain a healthy, safe environment for children, employees, and community residents. Thus, Elemental Impact (Ei) embraces ECA as the commercial cleaning system of choice in the soon-to-be-announced Ei Conscious Cleaning Initiative within the Water Use | Toxicity platform.

ECA systems combine salted water with an electrical charge. By varying the mineral catalysts, the ECA system produces three distinct products: sanitizer | disinfectant | deodorizer, glass & general purpose cleaner, and heavy-duty cleaner | degreaser.

ECA cleaning products are generated on-site. Thus, transportation carbon footprints and cleaning supply packaging associated with mainstream janitorial systems are reduced. Supply inventory is drastically reduced and chemical-related injuries are eliminated.

After a two-year evaluation, Georgia Institute of Technology (Ga Tech) transitioned cleaning and disinfecting | sanitizing solutions to an ECA-based system. Ga Tech Building Services Director Tommy Little and his team performed extensive, detailed testing of the ECA system effectiveness, at visual and microbial levels. The results were impressive!
Over nine years, Ga Tech reduced their on-campus cleaning chemicals by 90.7%! 
Beyond the tremendous cost-savings experienced with the ECA cleaning program, according to Tommy, "Best of all ...MY STAFF LOVES IT!!" Why does the Ga Tech building services staff love the program? Here a few reasons:
  • The cleaners work as well or better than prior cleaners.
  • Solutions do not dry out hands or cause respiratory problems.
  • Sanitizers | disinfectants actually eliminate odors.
  • The system portability - solutions may be made anywhere on campus.
Tommy Little & Wendy Welker
by their GS Certification banner
Over the years, Ga Tech was recognized by The National Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers, Green Cleaning Award for American Schools & Universities, Princeton Review, and The National Wildlife Federation for their renewable green cleaning. In addition, Ga Tech achieved independent certification under the Green Seal GS-42 Green Cleaning Standard.

... and Ga Tech saves an estimated $300,000 per year by producing ECA solutions on-site versus purchasing cleaning solutions for the campus custodial program.

On March 6 Tommy and his team hosted the Ei Conscious Cleaning Demo & Tour. Facility & housekeeping managers from Atlanta's venues and businesses committed to pioneering the movement from sustainable to regenerative best operating practices attended the impressive two-hour demo and tour. The Ei FB album, Ei Conscious Cleaning Initiative, includes an event pictorial recap.

With industry pioneers like Ga Tech at the helm, standard commercial cleaning is staged to evolve from current toxic or green-cleaning practices to conscious-cleaning programs. After all, conscious cleaning benefits the environment, the community, and the facility's bottom line!

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Flint River: a river ready to regenerate

As the second longest river in Georgia, the Flint River is critical to the state's ecological, environmental, economic, and water-supply foundations. Flowing unimpeded for nearly 220 miles, the Flint River is one of forty rivers in the nation that flows unimpeded for more than 200 miles.

Scenic Flint River
photo courtesy of  Sherpa Guides |GA
From its headwaters south of Atlanta, the Flint River flows nearly 350 miles through southwest Georgia where it joins the Chattahoochee River at the Georgia-Florida border to form the Apalachicola River, which flows on to the Gulf of Mexico. The entire basin is often referred to as the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin.

In the 1970's, the Georgia Natural Areas Council named the Upper Flint River Georgia’s “Most Scenic River.” Beyond recreational purposes, the Flint River is known for its vast biodiversity. In 2009 the Halloween Darter found only in the Flint, Chattahoochee, and Apalachicola Rivers was recognized as a newly discovered species. Four federally protected mussel species live in the upper Flint waters. The lower Flint River basin, along with the upper part of the Apalachicola basin, boast the highest species density of amphibians and reptiles on the continent, north of Mexico. (1)

A River in Crisis
Yet the Flint River is running dry. Twice named one of America's Most Endangered Rivers by American Rivers, the Flint River is a river in crisis.

Contaminated stormwater flows
through the drain directly into the river
According to American Rivers, a contributing factor to the Flint River's increasing low-flow challenges is the headwaters ultra-urban environment. A significant portion of the headwaters is covered with building structure | pavement or flows within drainage ditches. In addition, contaminated stormwater from impervious surfaces flows directly into the headwater streams, without municipal water treatment. The headwaters are harnessed and flow under Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), the busiest airport in the world.

In April 2013 American Rivers and the Flint Riverkeeper published the Running Dry: Challenges and Opportunities in Restoring Healthy Flows in Georgia’s Upper Flint River Basin report. Within the Green Stormwater Infrastructure to Restore Natural Hydrology section, the report recognizes that current stormwater infrastructure upgrades with "green infrastructure" are one of many potential contributors to restoring baseflow in the basin's upper reaches. As stated in the report:
 “Green infrastructure” for stormwater management can include both retrofits to stormwater infrastructure and new construction, and it seeks to restore or replicate natural hydrology as much as possible. Infrastructure elements specifically tailored to infiltrating water into soils in order to restore groundwater and baseflow could help remedy the upper Flint’s water quantity problems in addition to improving water quality. Green stormwater infrastructure can be as small-scale as a residential rain garden or as large-scale as systems of bio-swales or bio-retention ponds, and can even extend to broader “natural infrastructure” strategies such as targeted land conservation to preserve wetlands and stream corridors, or in some cases restoring natural floodplains, wetlands, and degraded streams.
There are many opportunities for improvements to stormwater management in the upper Flint’s most urbanized areas—at and near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport—and also in suburban areas of Clayton, Coweta, Fayette, Fulton, Henry, and Spalding counties.
Green infrastructure may include bio-swales, wetlands, retention ponds, and other bodies of still water, which are perfect bird nesting and feeding areas. With ATL a close neighbor, it is important to avoid still water in the stormwater improvement plans within a specified distance from the airport. Flying birds are hazardous to airplane take-offs and landings.

Finding the Flint
Finding the Flint is a vision for connecting Atlanta’s Flint River Headwaters and the Aerotropolis Atlanta Alliance (AAA), a driving force for revitalizing the area surrounding the Atlanta Airport.

Park Pride Executive Director Michael
Halicki next to the urban headwaters
Funded by American Rivers and the Conservation Fund in partnership with the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), Finding the Flint brings together the impacted local government and civic organizations: Clayton County Water Authority, Upper Flint River Working Group, Flint Riverkeeper, ATL, Cities of College Park, East Point, and Hapeville, AAA, AAA Community Improvement Districts, Development Authority of Clayton County, and Fulton County Citizen's Commission on the Environment.

In fall 2017 the ARC awarded the Upper Flint Green Infrastructure Preliminary Design Services contract to Pond & Co. Additionally, writer and urban designer Hannah Palmer was named Finding the Flint Coordinator.

Flint River Headwaters Tour

On March 17 Atlanta-based non-profit Park Pride hosted the Finding the Flint tour as part of their 17th Annual Parks & Greenspace Conference, Parks & the Resilient City, pre-event activities. American Rivers - Georgia Director Clean Water Supply Ben Emanuel and Hannah led the tour and educated the diverse, enthusiastic group. 

The tour consisted of five opportunities to witness the current state of the Flint River headwaters at the following locations: 

Georgia Power substation with
Flint River headwaters in the culvert
Willingham Drive - the river headwaters flow in a culvert alongside a Georgia Power substation along Willingham Drive; there is a vision to create a pocket park along the headwaters stream. Across the street, there is available land for a potential larger park. 

2> Virginia Crossings - the river headwaters flow underneath the parking lot and are seen through the stormwater drain; there are approved plans for a hotel on the parking lot site. With construction slated to start soon, the March 17 tour may be the final tour to visit the stormwater drain pictured earlier.

South of the Virginia Crossings parking lot, the headwaters return to the light of day for a brief stretch before its journey under the ATL campus. There is a vision for connected trails and greenways as the stream flows through office and industrial complexes.

3> Airport Loop Road - the Delta Flight Museum is located on the banks of the Flint River headwaters as the stream emerges from underneath ATL. There is a vision for green amenities on the grass areas near the museum.

Cargo plane landing on runway #5
at the Forest Parkway bridge.
4> Forest Parkway Bridge - once south of ATL the river headwaters return to the light of day for the remainder of the river's flow to the Florida state line. At the Forest Parkway bridge, there is a vision to create a plane-watching site by the river.

5> Atlanta South Parkway -  the Flint River regains a natural shoreline as it flows south within continued urban impact. From the Atlanta South Parkway bridge, it was disheartening to witness how local residents use the river shore as a dumping site.

Elemental Impact (Ei) Founder Holly Elmore and Ei Advisor Boyd Leake of Community Environmental joined the Park Pride Finding the Flint tour. Ei is committed to Flint River headwaters projects from two aspects: 1> support of the ATL's Flint River initiatives via the Sustainable Facilities Initiative - ATL Pilot, and 2> development of a Lambda Alpha International (LAI) Atlanta Chapter project. LAI is a global land economics honorary; Holly serves on the Atlanta Chapter Board and spearheads the LAI Atlanta Flint River project under development.

The Ei FB album, Flint River Headwaters, includes a section with a pictorial recap of the empowering tour.

Finding the Flint brings together the community across local jurisdictions, businesses across industry boundaries, and citizens who call the Aerotropolis Atlanta Alliance area their home. With the spectrum of committed support, the Flint River is staged to flow from a "river in crisis" to a "river in regeneration." 


1> referenced from American Rivers, Flint River: a Natural Gem with Urban Beginnings.