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School districts get $330,000 for clean school buses

Release Date: 10/22/2003
Contact Information: Wayne Elson
(206) 553-1463

October 22, 2003

Citing kids’ health impacts from long bus rides, EPA to fund retrofits for 160 dirty buses in four districts

Overall, school buses are the safest way for kids to get to school. But the small particles in typical diesel exhaust can have serious impacts on kids’ health. And the longer a child’s ride to and from school, the more diesel fumes he or she inhales. Citing concerns that long bus rides are common in suburban and rural areas, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that it will provide $330,000 to four “rural” western Washington school districts to retrofit 160 school buses and reduce dangerous diesel particulate emissions by 50 to 90 percent.

Under the Clean School Bus USA Grant Program, four regional air quality agencies will install oxidation catalysts on 139 buses– reducing particulate emissions by 50 percent – and install particulate filters on 21 buses – reducing PM by up to 90 percent. The work will occur in small, economically stressed rural school districts in Western Washington. This grant will supplement the funding that has been provided by the Washington State Legislature for school bus retrofits. The districts that are included in this project are:
  • Sedro-Woolley in Skagit County (Northwest Air Pollution Control Authority)
  • Aberdeen/Hoquiam in Grays Harbor County (Olympic Region Clean Air Agency),
  • Centralia/Chehalis in Lewis County (Southwest Clean Air Agency),
  • South Kitsap in Kitsap County (Puget Sound Clean Air Agency).
In their joint proposal – made through the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency – the air agencies noted “Students in small rural school districts, such as those involved in this project, tend to have longer bus rides on older buses than those in urban areas, increasing their exposure to diesel emissions.”

Health effects
Children are especially susceptible to the negative health effects of exposure to diesel exhaust because their respiratory systems are still developing and because they breathe 50 percent more air per pound of body weight than adults. The small particles in diesel exhaust pose the greatest health risk because they can pass through our natural filters in the nose and throat and lodge themselves deep in the lungs.

In addition to being classified as a “probable human carcinogen” by the EPA and the World Health Organization, other negative health effects of diesel exhaust include: aggravation of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, aggravation of existing asthma, acute respiratory symptoms, chronic bronchitis, and permanent lung damage/decreased lung function.

Other Clean School Bus activities in Washington:
  • (Retrofit) Puget Sound Clean Air Agency - 78 school buses have already been retrofitted under the Diesel Solutions Program. Some are using Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD)
  • (Retrofit) Washington Department of Ecology - Recent legislation has provided a revenue source for retrofitting school buses statewide. The initial goal is to retrofit at least 1,000 school buses with diesel oxidation catalysts.
  • (Anti-idling) Washington Department of Ecology - No Idle Zone - Keeping the Air Clean at Schools, A voluntary program with incentives to reduce school bus and passenger car idling.
  • (CNG) Three School Districts in the Olympia area together operate 49 dedicated or bi-fuel natural gas-powered buses.
  • (Biodiesel) B20 will soon be used by two school districts, one in Puget Sound and the other in Spokane.
  • (CNG) With the increased availability of CNG the Puget Sound Clean Cities Coalition is encouraging School Districts to consider this fuel in new Replacements.