Berkeley and Jefferson County School Bus Retrofit Project

 

School Bus Diesel Engine Retrofit Project
Berkeley and Jefferson County
Boards of Education

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INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND 

Berkeley and Jefferson County Boards of Education committed to retrofitting school buses with diesel oxidation catalysts (DOCs), devices that reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide (CO), fine particulate matter, and diesel exhaust. The Division of Air Quality (DAQ) began working with the schools in July 2003 to obtain funding for the project and assess fleet eligibility. The DAQ developed a grant program to enable up to $150,000.00 from a penalty settlement to be used for these West Virginia schools to retrofit their buses to reduce diesel particulate matter, a likely human carcinogen.

Berkeley and Jefferson County Boards of Education committed to retrofitting school buses with diesel oxidation catalysts (DOCs), devices that reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide (CO), fine particulate matter, and diesel exhaust. The Division of Air Quality (DAQ) began working with the schools in July 2003 to obtain funding for the project and assess fleet eligibility. The DAQ developed a grant program to enable up to $150,000.00 from a penalty settlement to be used for these West Virginia schools to retrofit their buses to reduce diesel particulate matter, a likely human carcinogen.

This is a voluntary project that the schools undertook above and beyond their typical responsibilities. Both schools have worked cooperatively with one another as well as with the Division of Air Quality to enable this project to succeed. Berkeley and Jefferson County Schools were awarded WVDEP’s 2004 Environmental Stewardship Award for their voluntary efforts to make one of the safest forms of ground transportation even safer. By the end of 2004, 100 school buses had been retrofitted with DOCs.

Diesel engines are very reliable and it is not uncommon for them to be in use for 20-30 years. Thus, retrofitting school bus fleets with DOCs will result in emissions reductions sooner than would otherwise occur through fleet turnover. DOCs were chosen as the method of diesel engine retrofit for Jefferson and Berkeley Counties due to ease of installation, relatively low cost, and ability to reduce not only diesel exhaust emissions, but VOCs and CO as well. The DOCs are muffler replacements on the exhaust systems of the buses.

Grant agreements between the agency and each of the school systems were signed in May 2004. The schools issued a combined request for bids to enable bulk rate discounts from vendors of verified US EPA retrofit technology. Then the schools issued purchase orders for the DOCs and began installing them in phases.

This project is the first of its kind in the state. US EPA is spearheading a national campaign to reduce diesel exhaust emissions, including the Clean School Bus USA program. The experience DAQ gained from assisting Jefferson and Berkeley Counties in retrofitting these school bus fleets with DOCs will benefit other school districts in West Virginia (WV) when they are ready to participate in such projects, thus reducing the exposure of school children and other sensitive populations to the unhealthy effects of poor air quality.

Additionally, the school bus diesel engine retrofit project is one of the primary voluntary measures being undertaken to demonstrate to US EPA that the Eastern Panhandle region of the state is expeditiously working to reduce ozone precursors that contribute to ground level ozone formation in Jefferson and Berkeley counties. These pollutant reductions will aid in the implementation of a strategy developed by the Early Action Compact (EAC) for the Eastern Panhandle Region of West Virginia to ensure local attainment of federal air quality standards.

OBJECTIVES

By implementing diesel engine retrofit measures in Jefferson and Berkeley counties, three main objectives are being met: air quality in WV’s Eastern Panhandle region will be improved; the school bus engine fleets will be cleaner without having to replace existing buses; and school children will be exposed to reduced amounts of diesel engine exhaust.

Improve Air Quality in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle
A reduction of diesel exhaust emissions as well as the ozone precursor of hydrocarbons (HC), including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), can be achieved by implementing diesel engine retrofit measures on school buses in Berkeley and Jefferson Counties. By reducing pollutants that contribute to ground level ozone formation, this diesel retrofit technology project will be aiding in the implementation of a strategy to assist the Eastern Panhandle region in ensuring attainment of air quality standards set by US EPA. Maintenance of attainment status of this geographic area will encourage economic development by increasing the manufacturing flexibility of local industries, as well as enhancing the possibility of new business growth.

The reduction of diesel particulate not only reduces exposure of children and bus drivers to this pollutant of concern, but reduces exposure to carbon monoxide (CO) and PM fines as well.

Clean Up School Bus Diesel Engine Fleet
There are approximately 221 school buses with diesel engines in active service in Berkeley and Jefferson Counties. By outfitting eligible older buses in these fleets with DOCs, overall emissions to the atmosphere can be reduced in advance of fleet turnover.

Protect Children from Diesel Engine Exhaust
US EPA has concluded that diesel engine exhaust is likely to pose serious respiratory problems to humans, as well as damage the lung in other ways, depending on exposure. Additionally, short term exposure to diesel engine exhaust can cause temporary irritation and inflammatory symptoms in some members of the population. According to US EPA, children are more susceptible to air pollution than healthy adults because their respiratory systems are still developing, and they have a faster breathing rate. Thus, reducing exposure of school children to diesel exhaust emissions can help alleviate potential unhealthy effects.

Diesel exhaust contains large amounts of small particles known as fine particulate matter. “Fine particles pose a significant health risk because they can pass through the nose and throat and lodge themselves in the lungs. These fine particles can cause lung damage and premature death. They can also aggravate conditions such as asthma and bronchitis” (www.epa.gov/otaq/schoolbus/humanhealth.htm).

In WV an estimated 32,000 children suffer from asthma based on WV Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR) data. This data also show that asthma is the number one cause of school absences attributed to chronic conditions. Reducing diesel exhaust emissions should help to reduce some of the factors potentially causing asthma attacks.

ASSESSMENT

There are approximately 221 school buses with diesel engines in active service in Berkeley and Jefferson Counties. With rapid population growth in the Eastern Panhandle region of WV, these counties are struggling to provide enough buses to transport students; therefore some buses are older than the 12-year life span suggested by a WV Department of Education policy. Older buses are typically used as spares (back-ups), while the newest and cleanest buses are put into regular service. Berkeley County Schools transports approximately 13,000 students to 26 schools, and Jefferson County Schools transports approximately 7,500 students to 14 schools.

Ideal Retrofit Candidates
For the purposes of this project, ideal retrofit candidates were buses in active service with 1997 or newer engines and with at least five years of regular service remaining. Such buses are currently 6 years old and are expected to have at least another 6 years in active service, followed by possible continued use as spares.

 

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