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New Rock Hill company cleans crime scenes

Blood, vomit and all manner of bacteria and disease keep Dale Sullivan and Gerry Moore in business.

Crime scene clean-up. A dead body left unattended for weeks. A house in squalor and crawling with disease. These are the assignments of BioClean Remediation Service, a new Rock Hill company that specializes in the cleaning and removal of biohazards in the Charlotte region.

A dirty job, yes. But it's also one Sullivan and Moore hope to use to educate the public about just how unclean normal homes, schools and offices are, and about how people's routine cleaning practices probably aren't doing much good.

"If their eyes can't see it, they think it's clean. But, biologically, it's not clean," said Sullivan, 49, who started the company in March after becoming certified by the National Institute of Decontamination Specialists. "You didn't kill the pathogen, you just killed what your eyes can see."

BioClean is the only company of its kind in York County. Sullivan got the idea after seeing frequent news reports of E.coli, H1N1 and other outbreaks. He researched the field and found there was a market locally for biohazard specialists. He went through the required training and made contacts with area police departments, coroners and other agencies that work cases where such hazards might come into play.

Equipped with a nondescript pick-up truck and trailer - which carries equipment and supplies and doubles as a mobile office - Sullivan, Moore and other workers are available 24 hours a day to show up and quietly go about the dirty work.

Despite the potential for spectacle, BioClean must be as low-key as possible.

"They call it a clandestine service," Sullivan said. "Homeowners don't want advertising at their home. They don't want the neighbors to know. We try to be mindful of that."

The company follows OSHA requirements for handling biohazards and also is permitted by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control to handle and dispose of infectious waste.

The waste that's collected is sent to a company near Greenville and incinerated.

So far, the company has dealt mostly with crime and suicide scenes, cleaning up blood and other things most people hope they never see.

"We have to leave something as if it never happened, because we can't leave mental or physical trauma for the homeowner," Sullivan said.

Though the workers try to be compassionate to the circumstances, they can't get too drawn in to the human emotions caused by the situation.

"You can't let your mind start wandering ... 'This poor guy,'" said Moore, 62, the company's general manager. "You've got to focus on what your job is. You've got to do things right."

That's because there are usually health concerns to deal with. Germs and bacteria that form on a dead body, dead animal or from unkempt conditions can quickly colonize and lead to big trouble. Some pathogens, if given enough time, can eat through wood and other materials and require remodeling on a home, Sullivan said.

Thus, there's a method to cleaning these hazards.

Heavy-duty chemicals, ones only available to hospitals and other permitted companies, are needed to kill some pathogens, such as HIV. Other times, special equipment is needed - such as a steamer that heats vapors to 280 degrees to kill every bit of bacteria in a building.

In other words, despite popular thought, a dab of Clorox won't cut it.

"It ain't just spray and wipe," Sullivan said.

That idea goes beyond the hardcore clean-ups. The germs and other harmful bacteria - including E.coli, staphylococcus, and others - on desks, computers and other objects can pose a serious health threat if not dealt with properly, Sullivan and Moore say.

"That's the side of the business we really want to grow and expand," Moore said.

Most cleaning at restaurants, hotels and other public buildings is often done hastily, not giving chemicals the right amount of time to be effective, the men say. The "dwell time" of chemical cleaners is generally found on the back of the bottle and is usually around 10 minutes.

Not giving the chemicals time to work is almost like not having cleaned at all.

"We're just living in this world of germs and bacteria that's all around us," Sullivan said. "We've just got to get people educated."

The company isn't strictly about working on gruesome scenes. BioClean also offers odor abatement, mold remediation, medical waste removal, vehicle contamination clean-up and services for businesses, law enforcement agencies, schools and other groups.

They might contract with a hotel to remove the stench of smoke from a nonsmoking room, or work with a homeowner trying to sell a house to eliminate seemingly permanent smells caused by years of owning pets. They can even give clients a choice of new smells, which will last for around six months.

"If it needs to be cleaned," Sullivan said, "we can clean it."

The company's slogan: "It's not clean until it's BioCleaned."