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UCPS receives grant to reduce diesel pollution

A joint press conference announces a $536,000 federal grant that will be used to retrofit dozens of school buses with diesel particulate filters. Pictured from left, are UCPS Director of Transportation Adam Johnson; UCPS Superintendent Dr. Ed Davis; CMS Superintendent Dr. Peter Gorman; CMS Executive Director of Transportation Carol Stamper; and Phil Rossi, program director of NC Clean Diesel Campaign.

Thanks to a $536,000 federal grant that will be shared between Union County Public Schools and Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, the air quality might just be a little better for students getting on and off the school bus and the community in general.
The announcement was made at a joint press conference between officials from UCPS, CMS and Clean Air Carolina. It was held Wednesday (Oct. 21, 2009) at Matthews Elementary School in Matthews.
“I’m excited about the partnership with all the local, state and regional organizations that have come together to secure this grant,” said UCPS Superintendent Dr. Ed Davis. “I think it’s a fine example of what can be accomplished for our citizens, for our communities and for our students when we all work together. I think it’s always great when we can partner with a sister school system.”
“We’ve been working with school systems to reduce diesel emissions because of the negative health impacts diesel pollution brings to the table,” said Phil Rossi, program director of NC Clean Diesel Campaign. “Reducing diesel emissions is one of the most important air quality challenges facing the country today. Diesel engines emit large amounts of nitrogen oxides and other air toxins that cause serious health risks.”
UCPS Transportation Director Adam Johnson said the grant will allow the UCPS Transportation Department to retrofit 24 school buses with diesel particulate filters. A similar grant last year retrofitted 20 buses.
“We’re well on our way to reducing these harmful emissions,” Johnson said. “It will reduce about 85 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. We’re very excited about this opportunity to work together to provide a greener environment for our children.”
CMS plans to retrofit 47 school buses and 15 fuel trucks with diesel multi-stage filters that will hopefully reduce harmful emissions by at least 55 percent.  
“Breathing-related illnesses such as asthma or other respiratory challenges, are the number one reason why students miss school,” said CMS Superintendent Dr. Peter Gorman. “Anything we can do to help clean that up will improve the quality of life for not just our students, but our community in general.”
Beth Martin, vice president of the Union County Asthma Coalition, confirmed Gorman’s assessment.  “We know for a fact that there is a link between the particulate matter in the air and increased asthma,” Martin said. “I think this is really going to make a difference for our children and our community.”
Rossi said the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) grant is federally funded and each state has the opportunity to apply for the grant.
The grant was the combined efforts of Clean Air Carolina, the Mecklenburg Urban Metropolitan Planning Organization and the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
CMS has 1,150 buses that travel more than 120,000 miles daily, transporting 84,000 students to and from school. In Union County, about 26,000 students are transported to and from school each day on 322 buses.
Johnson said about 20 percent of these have the diesel particulate filters, which help reduce harmful diesel emissions by at least 85 percent. All new buses have the filters installed already.
“Union County is one of the fastest growing school systems in the nation and our (bus) fleet continues to grow to support our growth in student population,” Davis said. “Because of that, I think it’s particularly important that we set a good example of being environmentally responsible. Part of our globalization initiative in Union County Public Schools is to look at all the things affecting our world and certainly the impact of the environment is a very important thing to be teaching our children about.
“As leaders in the community, it’s up to the schools to set an example,” Davis added. “Setting the example of being environmentally responsible is just the sort of thing that schools systems need to take a leadership role in participation.”

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Oct 21, 2009 by Deb Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator

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