School buses going green

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    By Stephanie Nate

    It?s mid-afternoon. A school bus rolls to a stop at a designated drop off point, and laughing children jump off the bus, eager for some play time after a long day at school.

    The bus gives a loud rumble as it starts up again, and suddenly the sound of children laughing turns into the sound of children coughing as they are engulfed in a thick cloud of exhaust fumes.

    This scenario, although fictitious, is realistic, with the tons of pollutants schools buses spew into the atmosphere. However, change is in the air with the recent introduction of the Clean Utah School Bus Program.

    The Clean Utah School Bus Program uses retrofitting ? installing new or modified technologies to older systems ? to improve the engines of older school buses in order to reduce the amount of exhaust emissions released into the atmosphere.

    ?We will be working on retrofitting school buses that will allow them to be green without needing to buy brand new buses,? said Mat Carlile, state Retrofit program coordinator.

    The Clean Utah School Bus Program currently has 1,949 school buses involved in the retrofitting process.

    ?The school buses in Utah?s school bus fleet that have been identified as candidates for retrofits generate an estimated 92.03 tons of carbon dioxide each year,? Carlile said.

    In addition to creating carbon dioxide, school buses also generate 4.02 tons of particle pollution and 21.36 tons of hydrocarbons, all of which are released into the atmosphere.

    Regardless of the recent economic downturn, the retrofit program has actually improved in terms of funding and production.

    ?A combination of EPA funds and CMAC funds are used for retrofitting,? said Murell Martin, the pupil transportation specialist at the Utah Office of Education. ?Mostly it is done with federal money for clean air.?

    Martin explained the program had not been affected by the declining economy because it is federally funded.

    The Clean Utah School Bus Program involves a coalition of organizations, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Utah division of Air Quality, local school districts, county and municipal governments and community and nonprofit organizations.

    One of the nonprofit organizations involved is Utah Moms for Clean Air, an organization of Utah mothers worried about their children playing outside in a state that has one of the worst air quality conditions in the nation.

    In addition to providing funding to retrofit school buses, the EPA has also provided several suggestions. They suggest drivers staying warm in the school building instead of the bus during colder months, parents preventing vehicle idling and students helping make and post ?no idling? signs around schools and neighborhoods.

    More information regarding school bus retrofitting can be found at www.deq.utah.gov.

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