U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
April 27, 2006
(CRITTENDEN COUNTY, Ark. - April 27, 2006) Cleaner skies are on the horizon in eastern Arkansas, as both the Marion and West Memphis school districts have teamed up with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to retrofit 50 old school buses with new, environmentally friendly technology and to participate in the Blue Skyways Collaborative, a nine-state pollution reduction program.
"Crittenden County was designated as an Economic Development Zone in February 2006 to allow for economic growth while protecting the air quality, and now two school districts are taking strides in making their community breathe a little easier," ADEQ Director Marcus Devine said. "We are continuing to find ways to make the air we breathe healthier. Retrofitting diesel school buses is another step in the right direction."
Fifty buses will be retrofitted: 31 from Marion and 19 from West Memphis, all manufactured before 2003. Each bus will be fitted with a diesel oxidation catalyst, a device that breaks down pollutants.
Buses with catalysts have been shown to reduce emissions as much as 26 percent for particulate matter, 66 percent for hydrocarbons and 41 percent for carbon monoxide.
The $46,480 needed to retrofit the buses was provided jointly through the EPA and the ADEQ. Officials from both agencies say funding is still available for other districts interested in updating school buses.
"Our district appreciates very much the ADEQ grant which made these retrofits of our district's buses possible," said Bill Kessinger, Superintendent of West Memphis School District. "With the summer approaching, this is a perfect time for our staff to make the necessary changes in time to start the next school year. We appreciate the prompt way this has been made possible."
Children are especially sensitive to air pollution because their respiratory systems are still developing and they have a faster breathing rate. Recent studies suggest that school bus commutes potentially expose children to significantly higher concentrations of pollutants than what is measured in the community's outdoor air.
"As a district of over 225 square miles, our buses log a lot of miles annually," said Dan Shepherd, Superintendent of Marion School District. "When contacted by Brawley Engineers in West Memphis about the possibility of retrofitting our diesel buses to reduce pollution in the environment, we were very willing to participate. We'd like to be part of the solution in keeping Crittenden County's air quality at desirable levels in order to attract more industry."
The school bus retrofit project has qualified Marion and West Memphis to be named the first school district partners of the Blue Skyways Collaborative. The collaborative is a group of nine central states seeking voluntary solutions, incentives and shared approaches to reducing diesel and other fuel-related emissions and emissions from the energy sector.
"It's a great day when hundreds of schoolchildren get to ride on cleaner school buses," EPA Regional Administrator Richard E. Greene said. "Through the Blue Skyways Collaborative, hundreds of thousands of children across nine states may benefit from future voluntary commitments. By following the leadership of Arkansas and these schools, we are certain to discover new ideas to help our communities breathe easier."
Communities and businesses are encouraged to implement emission reduction projects and apply to become Blue Skyways partners and communities.
For more information about Blue Skyways, visit http://www.epa.gov/region6/6xa/blue_skies_collaborative.htm or the Central States Air Resource Agencies: http://www.censara.org/presentations.asp.
Communities interested in other school bus retrofit funding opportunities may wish to investigate EPA's Clean School Bus USA grant program: http://www.epa.gov/cleanschoolbus/.