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Saugus upgrades air purification systems in municipal buildings as COVID-19 safety measure

SAUGUS — Implementation of an advanced air purification system is underway in Saugus schools, offices, and municipal buildings, Town Manager Scott Crabtree announced Thursday. 

Under the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), Crabtree said the town hired hygienists, mechanical engineers, and architects to assist in carrying out COVID-19 safety measures in town buildings as part of a continued effort to mitigate the virus’ spread.

“We had specifications of what we wanted (the filters) to be able to do, and then we had companies that responded to that and showed us (options),” Crabtree said. “Experts gave us different recommendations and put together lists of things we can do in each building.”

After consulting with these experts, the town purchased the Beyond by Aerus air purification system and acquired 167 of two separate units — the Beyond Guardian Air and the Guardian Angel — to make up the system. 

According to a fact sheet provided by the Town Manager’s office, the Beyond Guardian Air captures 99.7 percent of particles as small as .1 micron, purifies up to 2,000 square feet, and eliminates “volatile organic compounds (such as chemicals), smoke, and odors.”

The Guardian Angel is a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) air purifier that covers up to 1,000 square feet and removes 99.7 percent of airborne contaminants as small as .3 micron. 

Both models use UV light, combined with titanium dioxide, to remove contaminants through Photocatalytic Oxidation — a process used to destroy organic compounds by turning them into CO2 and water. 

Saugus has applied for funding assistance to pay for the systems through Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding and through the state’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance. 

“We are doing all that we can to keep everyone in Saugus as safe as possible,” Crabtree said. “We ask that everyone please continue to do their part by wearing masks, washing hands, avoiding gatherings, and continuing to follow the CDC and MDPH guidelines.”

A recent study published by the National Institutes of Health found that air purifiers can kill virus particles in as little as 30 minutes, and many experts suggest them for personal use as well. 

“It’s a relatively easy way to get clean air in a place where people are in close contact,” Joseph Gardner Allen, an associate professor of exposure assessment science who directs the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told NPR last month

Allen said portable air cleaners can help limit the virus’ spread by capturing particles in a HEPA filter and cleaning the air at a rate of up to six times per hour. He added that HEPA filters can remove at least 99.97 percent of airborne particles. 

“It’s a simple plug and play solution in that area,” he said. 

However, these and other necessary upgrades in Saugus schools and municipal buildings will likely cost the town more than $2.4 million, Crabtree said. 

Additional upgrades will include replacing air filters with high-rated MIR filters, rebalancing HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) units, adding unit-mounted UV lights to rooms, installing physical plexiglass barriers where needed, installing no-touch fixtures, and providing personal protective equipment (PPE) dispensers in different buildings. 

“The virus is surging, especially here in Massachusetts,” Crabtree said. “It’s definitely on the rise and experts are predicting it will get worse here in the fall … there are a lot of things going on, and we’re preparing for this virus to go into next year.

“A lot of this stuff will not only help with this deadly pandemic, but also with other germs and flus and colds. We hope these upgrades will have a positive effect on all of that.”

Elyse Carmosino can be reached at ecarmosino@itemlive.com.

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