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Warwick, RI Receives $350,000 EPA Grant for Clean School Buses

Release Date: 07/01/04
Contact Information: Contact: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, (617) 918-1008

For Immediate Release: July 1, 2004; Release # 04-07-01

WARWICK, RI – The US Environmental Protection Agency today announced it is awarding the Warwick Public Schools a $350,000 grant so that pollution control equipment can be installed on at least 40 of the city’s diesel school buses. Warwick is the first community in Rhode Island to undertake a school bus retrofit project which will substantially reduce soot and other pollutant emissions from school buses.

The project, announced this afternoon at a ceremony at Warwick Veteran’s Memorial High School, is among 20 projects selected for funding from among 120 applications nationwide. The projects are being funded with a $5 million Congressional appropriation for EPA’s Clean School Bus USA Program. An additional 17 clean school bus projects were funded last fall.
President Bush’s 2005 budget proposal will request an unprecedented $65 million for cleaner school buses.

“We are pleased to provide these funds to the Warwick School Department to help it reduce the environmental and public health impacts from its diesel school bus fleet,” said Linda Murphy, director of EPA New England’s Office of Ecosystem Protection, speaking at today’s new conference. “With childhood asthma rates increasing all across the country, projects such as this will help enormously in providing our children with cleaner, safer air.”

“New England has among the highest incidence rates of asthma in the country, especially for children, so this is the right thing to do,” added Robert Cerio, energy educator manager at the Warwick School Department, who will oversee the bus retrofit project. “We’re putting our best foot forward to protect our students and be good stewards for the environment.”

Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of diesel emissions, which can cause respiratory disease and exacerbate long-term conditions such as asthma. Rhode Island’s childhood asthma rate is 10.7 percent, according to a study released this year by the New England Asthma Regional Council.

The Warwick School Department will equip 20 buses with particulate matter filters and 20 buses with diesel oxidation catalysts. The equipment is expected to be installed in the fall. In addition, the school department will fuel its entire fleet of 72 school buses with a blend of ultra-low sulfur diesel and 20 percent bio-diesel fuel. Buses with the new pollution control equipment and the cleaner fuel will reduce their emissions by up to 90 percent.

Warwick has already taken a number of steps to reduce pollution from its 27 schools. Among those programs is a systemwide energy conservation program that has reduced energy usage by nearly $2 million over the past four years. Several Warwick schools are also using alternative energy sources, including solar panels and bio-diesel to operate boilers.

First Student, the school bus contractor that operates the school buses for Warwick, is also doing its part by actively encouraging their drivers to comply with their voluntary anti-idling policy.

In April 2003, EPA launched the Clean School Bus USA program to help reduce children’s exposure to diesel exhaust. The particles in diesel exhaust can penetrate deep into the lungs and pose health risks including aggravated asthma symptoms, respiratory symptoms in healthy individuals, and other health problems. Children are more susceptible to air pollution than healthy adults because their respiratory systems are still developing and they have a faster breathing rate.

The goals of Clean School Bus USA are to eliminate unnecessary idling, replace the oldest school buses with new ones and equip existing buses with advanced emission control technologies.
School buses provide a vital service, safely transporting 1.7 million children in New England to and from school every day. Cleaner school buses help not only the children who ride them but also their bus drivers, teachers, families, and communities who benefit from cleaner air and reduced exposure to diesel exhaust.

Related Information:
Diesel Exhaust
Children's Health: Air Quality
Air Quality (Particulate Matter and Haze)