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Trendsetters: Clean-up Company

Cable television is laced with programming that highlights the ills of modern society. Breaking Bad’s focus on the methamphetamine industry, Law & Order’s ripped-from-the-headlines crimes and the unscripted Hoarders all share a similar thread – the absolute chaos each of these leave in their wake.

In Georgia, the scope of these issues is significant. Meth abuse costs the state an estimated $1.3 billion annually; at least 1 in 50 people are serious hoarders; and 33.46 incidents of property crime occur for every 1,000 Georgia residents.

What CSI-type dramas don’t expose is that in the real world – not a television studio – a lot happens between the crime scene tape coming down and homeowners getting their homes and livelihoods back. Spaulding Decon, a company focused on expert cleanup, knows this all too well. They specialize in crime scene, meth lab and hoarding cleanup as well as mold remediation.

“In a lot of cases these families, especially if it was a direct family member, they are just in shock,” says Ken Goodnight, owner of the Spaulding Decon franchise that opened in Alpharetta last year. “Because they are still trying to cope with the death – trying to plan arrangements and contact family – and now they’re being tasked with cleaning all this stuff up.”

Goodnight says the need for Spaulding Decon services is great. For example, many people aren’t aware that police aren’t responsible for cleanup following a crime. After detectives gather evidence and have collected everything needed in a case, they turn the property back to its owner as is.

To help fill this need, in 2005, former police officer Laura Spaulding-Koppel founded Spaulding Decon to provide comprehensive crime scene, meth lab and hoarder cleanup, along with biohazard decontamination. Goodnight is the first franchisee in Georgia.

Goodnight admits the work is not for everyone, but for him it’s been a rewarding fit. A former operations manager for a large wireless carrier, he was always drawn to police work and who-done-it books and television shows. Not only that, he believes the work of Spaulding Decon is life changing.

“The jobs that we’re doing definitely are making a difference and impacting these people and giving them their lives back,” he says.

It’s a recession-proof industry, as well. Catastrophes happen and need to be cleaned up regardless of the economy.

While the majority of Goodnight’s current business involves hoarding cleanup, the company holds a propriety patent on the chemicals used to remove methamphetamine from homes; he is fully trained on those chemicals and how to use them. Goodnight was surprised to learn, though, that there’s no regulation or law in Georgia requiring the disclosure of meth contamination in homes.

“You can literally buy a house that was a previous meth lab and not even know it,” he says.

While there are check boxes for asbestos and lead regulation that date back almost 40 years, there is nothing in Georgia requiring decontamination of meth to protect future tenants or purchasers.

“The remnants of it are the methamphetamine chemical, that’s what’s left behind that gets into the air,” he says. “If you’ve ever watched Breaking Bad, you’ll see that they’re usually in full facial gear when they’re making it. So basically what you’re left behind is methamphetamine in your walls, in your carpet, in your floors, your counters. And if you don’t decontaminate that, you’re going to be picking that up as you breathe, as you touch the wall, as you walk on the carpet.”

Some of the health risks of meth exposure include migraines, skin irritation, respiratory problems, even some cancers, and it can be especially harmful for children.

“We’re trying to bring notice of this to our senators, so laws can get passed in the state of Georgia to force cleanup and make it safe for people,” he says.

The scope of Goodnight’s work is not limited to Georgia; the Alpharetta location of Spaulding Decon covers Alabama, parts of North Carolina and South Carolina. It’s not a glamorous business, but life isn’t always pretty and sometimes it requires some help from the pros.

There are mental health issues that translate into hoarding, homeowners’ worst nightmares of horrific crimes, unseen mold or a water pipe bursting while you’re on vacation. Now, Georgia and the surrounding states have an expert resource should the unexpected happen. – Dana Hazels Seith

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