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Local company modifying weed-killing device to battle COVID-19

Eco Earth Sciences' Aquacide device can be altered 'very cost effectively,' says CEO

To aid in the fight against COVID-19, an Orillia-based business is modifying a product typically used to kill weeds.

Eco Earth Sciences, owned by Orillia resident Patrick Kehoe’s Kehoe Holdings Inc., has a device called Aquacide. It uses thermodynamic sterilization that produces superheated water to sterilize surfaces and eliminate viruses and bacteria that cause diseases.

“The product was originally designed to kill complex, multi-cell organisms,” Kehoe said of Aquacide, which hit the commercial market in 1997.

It has been used by businesses, organizations and municipalities in various parts of the world as an environmentally friendly alternative to chemical products.

With the World Health Organization (WHO) stating chemicals are not effective against the coronavirus, Kehoe sees an opportunity for the modified Aquacide device.

“Health Canada, the WHO and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) all recognize wet extreme heat as the method of choice for sterilization. Not unlike an autoclave used to sterilize medical instruments, the Aquacide uses only superheated water under low pressure to effectively sterilize large areas and surfaces,” he explained. “The Aquacide is not impacted by contamination, dust or debris, is completely safe to use in public areas and can be used in any weather condition including wind or rain. The Aquacide is now one of the only technologies currently available that can successfully combat the COVID-19 virus in open-environment applications where chemicals have failed.”

To sum it up, he said, it’s like “using a sledgehammer to kill a fly.”

Kehoe has found the device can be modified “very cost effectively for this application.”

“Very inexpensively, you can take an existing unit, add alterations and you’re ready to go,” he said.

The challenging part has been tracking down those who are in possession of Aquacide devices. Fifty to 60 have been located, but that is “a drop in the bucket,” he said. He wants those who have them to know they’re “in possession of a device that could potentially kill this virus.”

If the devices are in a condition that allows them to be modified, Eco Earth Sciences will buy them back. The company is also offering conversion kits to allow those who have the devices to modify them.

The modification is for outdoor use, including playground equipment and other high-touch surfaces. The company is working on an option for interior use, too, and Kehoe expects more information about that to be available within the next few weeks.

He noted the City of Orillia, the City of Barrie and the Town of Collingwood might still be in possession of older versions of the device and they could possibly be retrofitted.

Anyone who has a device can contact Eco Earth Sciences at [email protected] or 1-888-863-1562.

In the meantime, staff will still be working “pretty much seven days a week, knowing we need to be ready for a second wave,” Kehoe said.