Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner is bringing cutting-edge ultraviolet light technology to bear on a problem faced by many Oregon wineries: how to reopen their doors while protecting employees and customers against coronavirus.
Willamette Valley Vineyards has been closed to the public for 66 days to comply with Gov. Kate Brown’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” Executive Order. When Brown approved Marion County’s move to begin their Phase 1 reopening on May 22, the winery had a plan with a Space Age twist to safely welcome back customers.
The visible portion of Willamette Valley Vineyards’ coronavirus program includes separating tables a minimum of six feet for seated tastings, limiting the size of parties and utilizing outdoor spaces. What visitors will not see when they visit any Willamette Valley Vineyards facility, or tasting room is the ultraviolet light motif recently introduced by Bernau.
“My research led me to conclude ultraviolet light is a powerful weapon against the coronavirus. We know it can kill this thing,” Bernau says.
Bernau’s research led him to install the Air Scrubber Advanced with ActivePure Technology in all Willamette Valley Vineyards facilities and tasting rooms, including their Tualatin Estate Vineyard in Forest Grove. The total cost of the installation performed by Gagle’s Heating in Salem was $30,000.
The ultraviolet light air filtration system is made by Aerus Enterprise Solutions in Dallas, Texas. Aerus began as Electrolux in 1924, but they have clearly moved well beyond vacuum cleaner technology.
The system is installed in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning ducts of a building. Oxygen and water molecules in the air enter into the system and pass through ultraviolet light and a filtering system called the Coated Honeycomb Matrix. Aerus claims those molecules are then converted into superoxides and hydroxyls, which are pumped back into the room. There they will seek and – hopefully – destroy common bacteria and viruses in the air and on surfaces.
Dave Thomas, Aerus’ regional vice president, says the layman’s term for those super-charged molecules is “friendly scrubbers.”
An entry on a NASA website describes the process in greater detail. “Called ActivePure Technology, and commercially available since 2013 as the Air Scrubber Plus, the key to its function is a proprietary blend of reactive metals added to the original titanium dioxide coating. When exposed to ultraviolet light, these metals mix with the surrounding air and humidity to produce charged clusters of hydrogen and oxygen such as hydrogen peroxide, hydroxyls, and superoxide ions, which are antimicrobial agents also found in nature.”
“We have always wanted a safe environment for our employees and guests at Willamette Valley Vineyards. These days we just have to be a little more creative,” Bernau says.
— Michael Alberty writes about wine for The Oregonian/OregonLive. He can be reached at email@example.com. To read more of his coverage, go to oregonlive.com/wine.
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