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Dow’s Union Carbide subsidiary in South Charleston has joined the war against the spread of COVID-19 by producing industrial scale quantities of hand sanitizer for free distribution to health care systems and government agencies.

The first production batch of South Charleston-produced hand sanitizer is expected to be ready to be released for packaging Wednesday, according to Tim O’Neal, vice president and site director for Dow’s Union Carbide subsidiary.

The sanitizer will be packaged by Total Distribution, Inc., of Nitro, and distributed by the West Virginia National Guard to health care workers and first responders across the state, O’Neal said.

The South Charleston plant is one of four Dow units that began producing hand sanitizer this week, following consultation with state and federal regulators to obtain the needed permits and licenses. Dow officials also met with public health officials in areas near the four plants to assess how much of the product was needed.

Other plants recently starting sanitizer production include Dow’s Auburn, Michigan, operation, and Dow manufacturing sites near Seneffe, Belgium, and Hortolandia, Brazil. A Dow plant in Stade, Germany, had been producing hand sanitizer for donation at an earlier date.

In full production, the Dow facilities will be capable of producing the equivalent of 880,000 eight-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer per week. Production is expected to last for about four weeks, with an assessment to be made at the end of that period to determine how much additional sanitizer is needed.

While Dow does not typically produce hand sanitizer, most of the raw materials needed for producing it are in stock at the participating facilities, according to O’Neal. At the South Charleston plant, “we have reallocated an existing production asset to make the hand sanitizer to help meet the critical need,” he said.

O’Neal credited his company’s local operations team with quickly responding to the shortage of much-needed hand sanitizer, and praised the efforts of first responders, health care workers and others on the front lines of the COVID-19 suppression effort, who will receive the product free of charge.

“During these times I have seen the power in working and collaborating in the same direction,” he said.

“We intend to continue producing hand sanitizer as long as raw materials are available and supply is short,” Dow CEO Jim Fetterling said in a statement released on Tuesday.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5169 or follow

@rsteelhammer on Twitter.