Parts of the Gordon County School bus fleet will be “retrofitted with emissions control devices,” paid for by a grant from the Environmental Protection Division (EPD).
Gordon County’s Transportation Department was awarded $131,778 as part of the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) State Clean Diesel Grant.
According to Gordon County Transportation Director Geary Cooper, out of 120 buses employed by Gordon County, 56 of those buses, that are model years 1998 thru 2004, will be fitted with new mufflers proven to reduce diesel emissions, also known as Particulate Matter (PM).
Cooper has fought for the highly competitive grant for Gordon County school buses for over five years, he said, but because Gordon County’s air quality is not considered poor, or “non-attainment,” the 24 other Northwest Georgia counties who may have non-attainment air quality, such as Floyd, received grant money first.
“Since the buses are around the school and they are helping keep the air clean, then the air around the school and the air around the kids will stay clean. It’s all about the kids, it always will be,” said Cooper.
According to Gordon County School’s bus driver, Gary Eastham, his bus 99-8 is a 1999 model and says the filters would be a good thing.
“You have to turn the buses off when you are around people, students or the general population. As the diesel exhaust comes out it will choke you and it gets to the point that if it chokes you that way its got to be bad for you,” said Eastham.
Eastham’s bus is one of the 56 buses that is scheduled to be retrofitted with the new filters.
Diesel emissions have been recently linked to asthma and idling schools buses possibly parked in front of intake valves at schools link the possibility of faculty and staff inside the schools being exposed to the same risks.
"The decision by Gordon County Schools to retrofit 56 of their school buses with emissions control devices will result in cleaner, healthier air, in and surrounding the buses that will provide health benefits for the students and staff," according to a statement by EPD.
According to Geary, one school bus is capable of taking 72 cars off roads, in regards to parents transporting children to school.
“Heavy-duty diesel engines such as those used in school buses are a significant source of particle pollution and this pollution has been linked to health issues such as asthma and heart disease,” according to a statement from the EPD.
The grant will cover 100 percent of the cost for the new “emissions control devices,” according to the EPD, and are expected to be fitted sometime in June, according to Cooper.
The grant will provide the Gordon County Schools Transportation Department with funds to purchase two types of filters from Yancey Power Systems, which will also be responsible for installation.
The first type of filter is called a Diesel Oxidation Catalyst Filter (DOC), affixed to the muffler system and will reduce school bus diesel emissions by 25 percent, according to Cooper.
The second type of filter is called a Diesel Particulate Filter, also involved with the exhaust and muffler component, can reduce emissions between 85 to 90 percent, said Cooper.
Differences in filters are dependent on the age of the bus, and some are cleaner than others, according to Cooper, who says each bus will be retrofitted the appropriate filter to bring all 56 buses in the fleet, not already equipped with “emissions control devices,” up to at least an 80 percent diesel emission reduction rate.
Parts and installation of the new filters will be completed by Yancey Power Systems, and is expected to take up to three to six days to fit all 56 buses, according to Emissions Specialist at Yancey Power Systems, Marvin Tiesler.
According to Allman, currently the state of Georgia has retrofitted 1,898 school buses to date, since 2005, with the same filters that will be installed on Gordon County School’s buses, in an effort to keep the air safe for school children and the counties they live in.
The filters are designed to reduce PM in the air, which can come from diesel engines, black smoke from burning, power plants, etc. to contribute to a “non-attainment” area, which coincidentally surrounds Gordon County.
In addition to the two different filters, the grant money will also afford the Gordon County Transportation Department with DPF Pulse cleaner and thermal regenerator, which is necessary to clean the new filters every year.
“They perform the cleaning procedure, once a year, the DPF filter has to come off the bus and be cleaned, it’s a three step process,” said Tiesler.
The cost for the DPF Pulse cleaner is between $13,000 and $15,000 and for the thermal regulator, the cost is $10,000, and is paid for with the grant money, according to Cooper.
Yancey Power Systems have been retrofitting buses with diesel emission reduction filters for close to six years now, according to Tiesler, and the filters are used not only on school buses.
“They are also liable to use on any diesel powered equipment, anything from transit buses, long haul tractor trailers, and delivery trucks,” said Tiesler.
Currently the EPD is working to reduce the level of PM in local counties by equipping school systems with grant money for even more environmentally and health friendly modes of transportation.
“We have a hybrid project that is coming out for non attainment areas. We are looking into it, the project we are currently going ahead with, is propane, hybrid buses,” said Allman.
The EPD recently supplied Hall County with grant money and now has 20 new propane fueled buses, which will be monitored for success before implementing the buses in other counties, according to Allman.
Though it is hard to find grant money for counties like Gordon who are considered attainment areas, the transition for cleaner air has arrived.