When the COVID-19 pandemic ramped up back in March, Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) responded by stepping up its cleaning and disinfecting procedures to include the use of Envirox Critical Care, a highly potent disinfectant formulated for critical disease transfer points. The chemical, known for its low toxicity and 24-hour residual bacterial killing abilities, is being used on high-touch areas like handrails for steps, escalators and moving sidewalks, as well as elevators, handles, buttons, floors and restrooms.
In June, PHL added another element to its sanitizing efforts. Taking advantage of a CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act) provision that appropriates $54 million in supplemental funding to clean and sanitize Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint areas, the airport cleaned and sanitized all seven TSA checkpoints, two TSA breakrooms and a TSA training center. The work was performed by Lewis Environmental, a company that specializes in hazardous material cleaning, under PHL’s Facility Maintenance Contract, and the airport plans to continue the enhanced cleaning and sanitizing monthly through the end of the year when the program is set to expire.
According to Allan Moore, Deputy Director of Facilities Maintenance, the process involves electrostatic disinfection, a “fogger” that contains electrostatic-charged particles that adhere to surfaces and acts as a sanitizing agent.
“They come in, suit up, clear the area, seal it off, wipe things down, spray the fogger which gets on everything and kills the germs,” Moore explained. “They did the screening area, the X-ray machines, the scanners, the conveyer belts as well as the breakrooms and the training center.”
Moore said that the disinfecting for the TSA areas costs about $20,000 per job. The total amount through the end of the year is estimated to come to $140,000, which the airport will be reimbursed through the CARES Act provision.
The reimbursement program was announced in early April. The airport needed a proposal from the contractor and approval from the local TSA to do the work. The process was finalized at the beginning of June and the work was completed the week of June 22.
“After the proposal was approved, we met with TSA to figure out what the schedule would be," Moore said. "The checkpoints that were open (B, D-E, and F) we had to do at night. The checkpoints that were closed (A-West, A-East and C) we were able to do them during the day.”
The monthly disinfection is complemented by the daily mopping and frequent refurbishing of the floors in the checkpoint areas the airport Custodial team performs as well as removal of trash and recycling materials from bins at the checkpoint entrances.
At the same time, the TSA continues to conduct its own cleaning and sanitizing on a daily basis as well as implement safety measures related to COVID-19.
Moore expects the reimbursement process to take up to three months.
“It’s good to do it to take advantage of the program,” Moore said. “It helps restore people’s confidence. It helps sanitize the checkpoints. It’s all about doing a bunch of different things when you layer them on it helps restore guest confidence in flying. It’s cleaning the checkpoints, it’s the hand sanitizer throughout the airport, it’s wiping down the high-touch surfaces, putting up the plexiglass barriers, wearing masks…it’s all about things we are doing that collectively help create a cleaner, safer environment for travel.”