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HIGHFILL -- Directors of the Northwest Arkansas National Airport have agreed to spend money to provide a safe experience for the flying public during and after the covid-19 pandemic.

The board agreed last week to spend up to $860,000 for equipment to improve air quality throughout the terminal building and to pursue grants to offset the expense.

The board asked Kelly Johnson, chief operating officer, and her staff to find the best options.

Johnson said Wednesday that staff worked with HP Engineering, a mechanical engineering firm, to study the terminal and its mechanical systems. They recommended upgrades to improve air quality by diluting, exhausting, containing and cleaning the indoor air. Johnson asked for the additional money to contract with Trane to look at new products based on those recommendations.

Needlepoint bipolar ionization technology produces positive and negative ions that travel with the air supply into a space. The ions cause particles such as dust, dander, pollen, bacteria and virus to attract and stick together, which increases the effectiveness of filters.

Dry hydrogen peroxide systems generate hydrogen peroxide from ambient humidity and oxygen present in the environment. The molecules travel throughout an enclosed space to attack and reduce viruses, bacteria, mold, odors and many insects.

Board member Mike Johnson cautioned Kelly Johnson to go heavy on the due diligence, noting the effectiveness against covid isn't entirely known for some of the new systems.

Installing dry hydrogen peroxide air cleaning devices throughout the terminal could cost $900,000, and bipolar ionization air cleaning devices at each heating and cooling unit to clean recirculated air could cost another $100,000, according to materials provided to the board.

Kelly Johnson said the changes will enhance the safety of airport customers and employees and assure them efforts are being made to keep them safe.

The board in June approved spending $200,000 for equipment or capital projects specifically designed to reduce the risk of virus transmission in the airport terminal. The airport has installed ultraviolet lighting units in the heating and cooling system's 11 air handling units at a cost of $45,121.

Touchless drinking fountains have been installed throughout the terminal at a cost of $50,765.

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