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Clean Air or Bus?

August 6, 2008

By John Norton, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.

Aug. 6–One of the surest signs a bus is nearby is the telltale smell of exhaust.

That might be harder to notice these days in Pueblo, thanks to $450,000 spent retrofitting city and school buses to reduce the pollutants put into the air and, maybe more significantly, into the passenger compartments.

Part of the money, $250,000, was provided by Xcel Energy in its settlement with environmental groups clearing the way for construction of the third unit of its Comanche Station power plant. Xcel agreed to put in pollution controls at the plant but also offered to help Evraz Rocky Mountain Steel with cleaning up its emissions and committed to help fund the diesel-engine retrofitting project.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Supplemental Environmental Program provided another $200,000 from a fund that’s fed by fines against polluters.

Ross Vincent of the Sierra Club said that when the money was made available, the Denver Regional Air Quality Council was consulted since it had overseen a similar diesel retrofit project. The firm Instrument Sales & Service Inc. was contracted to do the work, which should be completed this week with the last of more than 100 District 70 buses retrofitted.

On Monday, John Schmidt of ISS, was installing closed crankcase ventilation systems that will trap unspent gases in the engine that could otherwise be drawn inside the bus when the door was opened.The oil that’s trapped will be recycled on a regular basis, said John Gomez, the district’s supervisor of transportation. “You’re not going to see that black smoke coming out,” he said.

Also installed on many buses were pre-heaters. One of the problems with diesel engines is that in cold weather, buses have to warm up and stay running when they’re waiting for long periods. The pre-heaters will allow drivers to start up more quickly and shut off the engines when they’re stopped, saving both fuel and reducing pollution.

The project retrofitted 15 city buses and 31 of the Pueblo City Schools’ 65 buses. The others are older models that will be retired soon and replaced with new vehicles that have been outfitted with the pollution control equipment.

At 1 p.m. today, the people involved will celebrate the project in Gateway Park at the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo, behind the Pueblo police headquarters.

Jim Martin, executive director of the state health department, will be there along with Carol Rushin, acting regional director of Region 8 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The event will last about an hour.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.

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