Cleanup Company Takes On The Burden
by Veronica Craker, BBB Managing Editor & Writer
Link to Original Article
“Do you ever get used to death?”
That’s a question John Stavros gets asked a lot. His response is always the same.
“No, I never do,” he said. “How can you?”
Stavros owns and operates Bio Management Northwest. The company headquarters are in Edmonds, but offers services throughout Washington and Oregon. Some of the services he provides include: homicide, suicide and unattended death remediation; police and personal vehicle cleaning; hoarding and clutter cleaning; blood, body fluid and tissue disposal; fire, smoke and water damage remediation and insurance assistance.
“We use the word remediation and abatement a lot, but we’re basically a very specialized hazmat company,” Stavros said. “We get some exotic cases. The things would you not normally think of – we handle it.”
Some of those “exotic cases” even brought him 15 minutes of fame when he was featured in two episodes of A&E’s show “Hoarders”.
In the Beginning
Prior to launching Bio Management Northwest, Stavros ran a commercial janitorial business. But in 2006, he sensed a recession was on the way and decided a career move was in order.
“I research what three factors were involved in the last recession and what businesses flourished,” Stavros said.
The three industries that remained profitable included funeral homes, entertainment, and forced economics. “Well I can’t tap dance or sing,” Stavros said. “So forced economics – that’s what we are.”
Stavros started out with one employee and a truck. But it didn’t take long for his business to grow.
“I saw a flux in the first year and a half when I was doing in,” he said.
Getting Close to Death
Stavros will be the first to tell you the job comes with difficulties. He doesn’t try to sugar coat the intensity of the business. Especially when having to deal with death on a routine basis.
Stavros said he rotates his crewmembers out of crime scene celanup when he can tell they are having a hard time.
“It can affect you,” he said. “We have had people suffer from PTSD.”
When handling crime scene cleanup, the Bio Management Northwest team typically comes in after law enforcement has conducted its investigation. Their job during is to eliminate any bio-hazardous waste, ensuring the area is safe for the public.
To maintain a high level of professionalism, Stavros personally trains his dozen or so crew members. They receive drug lab cleanup certification from the Department of Health and are also required to attend hazardous waste classes.
“So there’s classes and onsite training that they must goo through,” Anthony Wilson, operations manager, said.
Stavros is insistent that his employees are capable of handling the seriousness of the job. In fact, much of the Bio Management Northwest staff have military backgrounds or have worked for other restoration companies.
“There’s a lot of disciple and there’s a lot of experience,” Stavros said of his employees. “It’s a very well-rounded bunch.”
Drug Lab Cleaning
In 2014, the Drug Enforcement Agency conducted nearly 3,000 methamphetamine seizures. That’s twice as many as a decade earlier. Decontamination of a meth lab must be performed by professionals. That’s why Bio Management Northwest certifies its technicians in hazardous waste disposal.
According to the Bio Management Northwest website, meth residue coats the surfaces in homes and over exposure to the chemicals can result in liver and kidney damage, neurological problems, and an increased risked of cancer.
“I would highly recommend testing for methamphetamine when buying a house,” Wilson said. “We find, a lot of the times, a family will buy a house and a neighbor will come over and tell them there was a lot of drug use done there.”
They also suggest property managers test for contaminants between each tenant. Stavros has given seminars and classes on this type of testing to help property managers protect themselves or their tenants.
“We are happy to educate them,” Stavros said. “We’re highly specialized and we’ve got a lot of experience in working with property managing companies.”
Business has been steady for the past decade and a half, but Stavros is already working at expanding his services. He is currently working on offering services for disease control for pandemics and epidemics.
“I keep the services we provide very diverse,” Stavros said.
Crime Scene Cleanup
Despite offering an array of services, probably the most interesting is crime scene cleanup. While this kind of work might seem upsetting, Stavros insists the reward comes from helping others.
“There’s nothing like when you come up to a scene and there’s people who have lost a loved one and you’re helping to guide them through the process,” Stavros said. “They’re already traumatized and just the thought of them going through the process of cleaning up after a suicide or unattended death is a scarring event. There’s a lot of personal reward for helping people.”
Stavros like to say his company is full of “big softies.” So much so, the company has been known to offer services pro bono. If a family is unable to cover the cleaning expenses, Bio Management Northwest will step in and cover the costs.
“We just try to limit the cost to families because they don’t need to be dealing with that added stress,” Wilson said.
Stavros recalls a time when we arrived to a home for a crime scene cleanup and the family, who had nowhere else to go, was waiting outside in the driveway while he dis his work. Stavros said he felt terrible for the family and offered to pay for a hotel so they didn’t have to wait outside.
“We’re probably the only company in Washington state that does that,” Stavros said.
Additionally, its Stavros’ policy to waive the insurance deductible so there is never a cost to the family. He remembers a case where the family di not have the means to pay for the cleanup.
“I said ‘well, if you like what we did, can you just give us a shout-out on your website?’ and they couldn’t believe it,” Stavros said. “They were in tears. They’ve gone through enough trauma as it is and that’s our way of helping.”