Cape Schools doing their part for cleaner air with refitted diesel buses

by Michael Short on February 24, 2011

Senator Tom Carper (left) and Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin O'Mara examine one of the newly retrofitted Cape buses.

By Michael Short

The Cape Henlopen school bus fleet is among several in Delaware that’s being upgraded so that its’ diesel engines produce almost no air pollution.

School buses in Delaware are being refitted with filters and other equipment that supporters say will create good American jobs and help the environment while protecting our health.

Fifteen buses at Cape Henlopen have received the makeover under legislation signed into law on January 4.

“We are all here today because we are passionate about  our Delaware community and passionate about keeping our community healthy,” said Deb Brown of the American Lung Association, during a press conference on Tuesday. “With modern pollution control technology, the emissions from a diesel engine can be cut by 90 percent.”

The Clean Diesel Retrofit Program provides loans, grants and rebates to reduce diesel emissions. Senator Tom Carper and Senator George Voinovich were main sponsors of the legislation in 2005 and it was re-authorized on Tuesday afternoon.

Closed crankcase filtration systems and diesel particulate filters made from ceramic are installed on buses under the refitting program. The result can be an almost total elimination of diesel emission.

Carper was among those at the press conference at the Cape Henlopen School District. Buses in Capital School District and Providence Creek Academy, trash trucks in Dover and Wilmington and diesel engines at the Port of Wilmington are other recipients of the new technology.

“The people of Delaware sent me to Washington to find ideas that will work, ideas we can all agree on to make our country even better,” Carper said. “It’s going to make life a lot better.”

Compared with traditional gasoline engines, diesel engines are more efficient, last longer and without the proper technology, have greater, deadlier emissions,” according to Carper’s office. “Diesel exhaust is a mixture of vapors and fine particles, many of which can cause cancer. Chronic exposure to these toxins can lead to cancer and death. This is why poor air quality caused by old dirty, diesel engines can lead to higher-than-average cancer rates for those living along heavily traveled interstate highways, like I-95 in Delaware. . . dirty diesel emissions are linked to 21,000 premature deaths, hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks and numerous other health impacts every year.”

“Reducing diesel pollution is a win for jobs, a win for health and a win for climate,” said Brooke Suter of the Clean Air Task Force. She said that diesel particles cause a seven times greater danger of lung cancer than other emissions and also increase the threat of global warming.

About 109 school buses in Delaware have already been re-fitted under the program. Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Secretary Collin O’Mara said “there is no more  sacred trust”  for government than keeping water and air clean.

The program leverages federal dollars so well that for each $1 spent, there are more than $13 in benefits, according to Carper.

“We are excited that Senator Carper has decided to come to the Cape Henlopen School District and has recognized our diesel emissions reduction program in the district as a best practice,” said Cape Henlopen Superintendent Dr. David Robinson.

Carper paused during Tuesday’s event to praise Congressman Mike Castle, who was serving his last day in office, for “his exemplary service to the people of our state and country.”

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