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Cleaner emissions from school buses

Students in Rockdale County will soon breathe fresher air on their ride to school with the help of a grant that funds clean air measures for buses.

Seventy of the 200 buses in the Rockdale County Public Schools systems’ fleet are being retrofitted to substantially reduce emissions produced by exhaust from diesel fuel. The process involves installing after-market exhaust treatment devices that reportedly catch approximately 90 percent of particulates contained in exhaust. 

Phil Budensiek, head of the Rockdale County Public Schools Operational Services, said the particulates emitted contribute to the smog levels that the public hears about.

“It is our whole region that benefits (from the devices),” said Budensiek. “It means cleaner air.”

“We already have a no-idling policy when we pull into our schools. Most of our schools have asked parents to comply with that.”

Funded by an $800,000 federal grant awarded through the Ga. Department of Natural Resources, the 70 buses will be retrofitted with a ThermaCat Filter System. The diesel particulate filter system reduces the particles that come from the tailpipe by capturing and burning the exhaust in a box. 

According the Clean Air Campaign website, exposure to particle pollution can cause damage to the hearts and lungs of children. The mixture of microscopic solids and liquid droplets are suspended in the air as a result of a variety of sources including diesel engines, power plants, burning and industrial processes. Particles are extremely small — thirty can fit in the diameter of a human hair — and exposure to particle pollution can exacerbate the symptoms of asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia.

Covered entirely by the $800,000 Department of Natural Resources grant, the 70 buses are being retrofitted by Rush Trucking Company in Atlanta, though not all the work will be completed by the time school starts on July 30. 

According to Budensiek, the system hopes to have the entire fleet, approximately 200 buses, in compliance within the next five years.