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Cleanup business booms after flood

June 20, 2008
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RUTLAND, Vt. (Rutland Herald) -- Downtown's floodwaters may have receded, but local businesses are still swamped by calls for cleanup.

"We have a ton of experience," said Douglas Ellwood, co-owner of G.W. Savage Corp., based out of South Burlington. "But as far as seeing something like this in Vermont, it's somewhat rare."

Ellwood said his company has handled jobs including cleanup after Hurricane Katrina and widespread flooding in Portsmouth, N.H.

Savage Corp. is handling the cleanup of the Mead building, the Asa Bloomer Building, the Bardwell House and the Transit Station.

"The water that flooded downtown Rutland is 'black water' loss, which means it's possibly grossly unsanitary, can have bacteria in it, and all kinds of stuff," Ellwood said.

He said physical removal of the water is complete, but there is still the process of disinfecting, sanitizing and drying out the buildings.

Ellwood said the typical dry-out process can take three to five days, but certain situations may take weeks to fully dry.

G.W. Savage Corp. is arranging to help those flooded in the Midwest states as soon as they can finish up business in Rutland and Middlebury, according to Ellwood.

Julie Ellis, owner of ServiceMaster in Rutland, has been hired to clean Clem's Café in Rutland.

"I've only been doing this for two years," she said. "I was just overwhelmed when I came into this."

Ellis said she called a fellow franchise in Sterling, Mass., to bring their expertise and hasten the process.

With a 34-inch-high watermark in the basement, Ellis and her crew are removing all of the sheetrock, boards and flooring that came in contact with the contaminated water.

"(We are) making sure the restaurant upstairs itself is completely sanitized, every square inch," said Bob Marien, crew chief from the Massachusetts ServiceMaster franchise.

Howard Lerman, owner of Chem-Dry in Killington, is working on several flooded properties in the city.

"Naturally when you do have situations like this, you have so many customers and only so many services available," Lerman said.

He said his business normally consists of 95 percent carpet and upholstery cleaning. Lerman said he's had to turn away six or seven people who called for his services.

"I more or less do it as a service more than the money," Lerman said. "My customers are in need and I have the equipment, but I don't go out looking for that kind of business."

Tom DePoy, city alderman and owner of Green Mountain Kleen, said his business's primary focus is carpet cleaning, but has been busy helping residents dry out.

With The Party Store on Strongs Avenue and approximately six to eight residential basements he has his work cut out for him.

"You have the equipment on hand, but probably for 10 to 11 months of the year it just stays on the shelf, but when you need it it's there," DePoy said.

Both DePoy and Lerman said they normally get called to clean water damage during the winter months when a pipe or sprinkler system has frozen and burst.

"We're the ones that go in and get our knuckles dirty and use the elbow grease to get the stuff out," DePoy said. "It's labor intensive."

Some businesses, such as Body Tech Nutrition and Hawley's Florist, are still waiting to get professional help tackling the mess left behind.

Businesses are not the only ones rolling up their sleeves and getting dirty.

Kelsey Woodell, assistant manager of Freeman Marcus Jewelers, said employees came in shorts and T-shirts to work Monday and Tuesday to throw out damaged paper products and shovel out the mud.

William Kelley, owner of Pyramid Holistic Wellness Center, said his business faced difficulties as they were trying to find ways to clean up the flood damage without chemicals to maintain their holistic health approach and be environmentally friendly.

"We sell this produce called Neem," Kelley said. "It's biodegradable, antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial. We've mixed up large batches of that."

Kelley said Pyramid has used the product before for minor issues, and hopes that the work of volunteers and the solution will render things cleaner.

Some businesses still have a long way to go. Ellis estimated the work of stripping and sanitizing Clem's Café will take at least another week, and could not say when they would be ready to open for business.

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