Indian Head, MD —
Empty streets, shuttered storefronts and semi-isolation is the new norm for America during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it isn’t business as usual for the country’s workforce, Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Indian Head Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division (IHEODTD) is helping one business give back to the emergency responders in dire need of flu-fighting hand sanitizers.
Following Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order limiting social gatherings and closing of non-essential businesses, Blue Dyer Distilling Company in Waldorf, Maryland, saw that in their downtime, they were able to fill an essential niche in their community. Understanding local emergency personnel were running critically low on hand sanitizers, they pivoted their operations from the production of spirits to the creation of this much-needed product. A subsequent Navy Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) was signed April 6 with NSWC IHEODTD allowing the two organizations to combine their efforts to speed up the release of the hand sanitizers for those who need it most.
“We are providing materials, facilities and operators on-site to aid with the large scale production of this critical commodity,” said Dr. Chris Wilhelm, NSWC IHEODTD Office of Research and Technology Applications lead. “This is an opportunity to help a local business do some good in an area where we have the materials and capabilities to aid them. If we can find a unique way to leverage our assets during this crisis, we are going to find a way to do so.”
The CRADA allows for Blue Dyer to receive raw materials produced at the command for use at their distillery to produce the hand sanitizer. The agreement is valid for six months, with the potential for further time added based on need. According to Walker Dunbar, the distillery’s founder and co-owner, with the help of NSWC IHEODTD, he and his co-founder Ryan Vierheller are perfectly situated to produce large quantities of hand sanitizers to local and federal agencies, as well as other organizations serving the public interest.
“Once we realized there was an immediate need for life, health and public safety, we prepared our facility for full-time production,” said Walker. “The assistance we received from Dr. Wilhelm and the rest of the command has been amazing. Through our combined efforts, we have received enough raw materials to actually allow us to distribute to other distilleries to help them produce hand sanitizer.”
To date, Dunbar says his distillery has produced approximately 200 gallons of sanitizer so far which have been delivered to more than 30 state, local and government agencies, including law enforcement personnel and other emergency services.
“This is a time when we all need to be flexible and identify where there is an opportunity for the greater good of the community,” said Wilhelm. “As Charles County’s second largest employer, we’re fortunate to be able to have the capabilities to support such organizations who are able and devoted to help those that need it most right now.”
NSWC IHEODTD — a field activity of the Naval Sea Systems Command and part of the Navy's Science and Engineering Establishment — is the leader in ordnance, energetics, and EOD solutions. The Division focuses on energetics research, development, testing, evaluation, in-service support, and disposal; and provides warfighters solutions to detect, locate, access, identify, render safe, recover, exploit, and dispose of explosive ordnance threats.