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Cleaner air could combat coronavirus

The city of Chesterfield is investigating the implementation of a bipolar ionization air purification (BIAP) system for several of its facilities.

The BIAP system purifies the air by eliminating airborne particulates, odors and pathogens. It attaches to a building’s existing HVAC system. Using specialized tubes, it takes oxygen molecules from the air and converts them into charged atoms that cluster around microparticles, surrounding and deactivating harmful substances.

Bipolar ionization air purification system (Source: AtmosAir)

Jim Eckrich, director of public works, said city staff has been searching for ways to operate facilities that are safe for employees and the public in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We believe a BIAP system would be an effective tool in our fight against COVID-19 and future viruses,” Eckrich said.

Estimated to cost $80,000, the technology would be used at city hall; the public works facility; the parks maintenance facility; parks concessions buildings, including at the amphitheater and aquatic center, Eckrich said.

Council member Ben Keathley (Ward 2) questioned the research.

“We’re talking about a significant investment here,” Keathley said. “There’s enough questions raised by other people out there, that I would like to know the numbers on how marginal are the improvements or how significant are the improvements on the overall health quality for the buildings?”

Eckrich pointed out in his report that a study by Analytical Lab Group showed a reduction in coronavirus aerosols of up to 90% after 60 minutes.

But council member Tom DeCampi (Ward 4) wasn’t convinced of the clinical evidence, saying he hadn’t seen any published white papers yet.

“(At) our last meeting we were talking about raising taxes on our residents and now we’re talking about spending $80,000 on an air purification system,” DeCampi said. “I just don’t think the optics are good here, so I can’t support this.”

The city has requested funding for the BIAP system from the CARES Act through St. Louis County Department of Health but it has not heard anything back yet, according to City Administrator Mike Geisel.

St. Louis County has yet to distribute the $47.1 million it set aside for municipalities from the $173.5 million in federal coronavirus relief.

At the Sept. 9 meeting, council member Barb McGuinness (Ward 1) made an amendment to the motion to secure CARES Act funding prior to going out to bid on the BIAP system. The motion was approved 8-0.

Concerns about the coronavirus have led to a surge in popularity for BIAP systems. Locally, the BIAP system has been used by both Emerson Electric and RGA.

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