When a project comes my way that’s not an everyday thing, it’s stimulating, and in some cases, it’s downright exciting. After my military service in the early ‘90s, I went to work in the field as a carpet and HVAC cleaning technician. In 1998, I opened my own carpet and air duct cleaning business in Bend, Oregon, giving it the name Guarantee Cleaning Services.

Shortly after, dissatisfied with current equipment available, I developed a duct cleaning system that solved a lot of the problems present in existing equipment, RamAir International. Today, after nearly 30 years of experience in the global HVAC cleaning/restoration industry, I still never claim to “have seen it all.” That having been said, the following is an account of an experience that brought me one step closer.

When the call came in this summer requesting that we perform meth decontamination in a building on an Indian reservation, my interest piqued. I acquired directions to the site and drove the hour and a half to the location. When I got there and looked up at the elaborate ceremonial longhouse, I knew I was in for an experience I’d never forget.

A Native American longhouse is considered one of the most sacred of tribal structures. It’s where the tribe holds ceremonies, the elders gather for tribal council meetings, and where the most important decisions are made for the good of the tribe. It’s a place of respect.

So when the tribal council found it had been entered illegally and used to manufacture meth, it wasn’t just a matter of restoring and decontaminating the building, it was a matter of giving the building back its honor.

Usually, the air ducts are replaced in a meth decontamination procedure, but in cases like this, where the air ducts are part of the architecture of the building, they need to be restored.

The first step in an HVAC meth decontamination project requires a complete removal of debris from inside the air ducts; this means chunks of wood, sheetrock, garbage, dead insects, rodent feces, construction materials; it’s staggering how much garbage can be lurking inside a duct system.

Remediation also entails a thorough cleaning of everything stuck to the inside walls of the air ducts, namely dust buildup. I’ve removed as much as an inch or more layer of dust that’s accumulated on the inside of ducts. This material requires physical agitation, preferably in the form of a whip to remove. Brushes used to be normal protocol, but nowadays with most modern air ducts being made of thin flex duct, brushes are advised against. Nails, screws and staples left there from the construction of the building, can be picked up by the rotating brush, swirled against the sides of the plastic membrane, ripping the air duct to shreds.