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MBTA To Pay $18,000 Fine and Spend $30,000 to Reduce Air Pollution and Asthma; Agreement Settles Claims That MBTA Violated Clean Air Laws

Release Date: 11/29/2000
Contact Information: Amy Miller, EPA Press Office (617-918-1042)

BOSTON -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has agreed to pay an $18,000 penalty and spend $30,000 on environmental projects aimed at reducing asthma to settle a case involving Clean Air Act violations.

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Children's Health

Under the settlement, the MBTA agreed to support community projects designed to reduce respiratory problems, particularly asthma, among low income minority children in Boston. The MBTA provides public transportation to the Boston area.

The $30,000 will go to the Healthy Air Program of Crittenton Hastings House, a Boston-based social service agency. Crittenton plans to reach at least 150 families and 50 individuals with its program to increase knowledge and awareness of respiratory diseases, particularly asthma, and their environmental triggers.

The case stems from an EPA inspection of MBTA in January 1999. According to EPA, the MBTA failed to install required emission control equipment on 31 of its buses, in violation of federal law. In addition, the authority failed to provide proof of emission controls in 18 engines. In fact, the authority could not even locate 17 of the engines in its fleet because of the authority's practice of switching engines among buses following maintenance activities.

"Soot from polluting buses significantly degrades the quality of life in our inner cities, triggering asthma among vulnerable residents and making the air less healthy for everyone," said Mindy S. Lubber, Regional Administrator of EPA New England. "The MBTA must be a responsible partner in reducing the amount of pollution emitted by its buses. The environmental projects the MBTA agreed to fund will help solve the problem of high asthma rates among inner city children."

Lubber has made children's health a priority during her leadership of EPA New England, launching a $1 million initiative called "Children First," aimed at reducing environmental hazardous facing children in the places they spend most of their time - at home, in school and outside.

In Massachusetts, 400,000 people (6.5 percent of the population) have asthma, and rates for children are even higher. In some Boston housing projects, asthma rates are 25 percent and higher and in Dorchester and Roxbury, the childhood emergency hospitalization rate is 178 percent higher than the state average.

EPA New England is funding a program at Boston University and half a dozen other area organizations to teach families at home and in health centers how to reduce the risks of asthma attacks. EPA New England also held an Asthma Summit this year that for the first time drew together federal and state agencies with private health groups and asthma coalitions to address this issue.

Under the federal Clean Air Act, engines from model years 1993 and earlier must be fitted with emission controls if they are rebuilt or replaced. The program is meant to reduce the amount of particulate matter in cities with more than 750,000 people.

The agreement signed this month orders the MBTA to bring all 31 buses in compliance, as well as the 18 engines without records. If the 17 that cannot be located in the fleet remain unidentified, EPA New England ordered the authority to install control equipment on 17 other engines.