At least 26 St. Charles Parish school buses are are going to retrofitted with special filters that will help them meet higher emission standards thanks to a special grant from Valero St. Charles Refinery.
The $200,000 “supplemental environment projects award” was included in a settlement Valero hammered out with the Environmental Protection Agency in action related to an alleged plant violation.
St. Charles competed with other parishes for the money and got it on the strength of a proposal worked out by transportation operations coordinator Gary Martin.
Speaking at a transportation committee meeting at the schools administration building in Luling on April 2, Martin said 26 buses and possibly more will be retrofitted if his cost estimates are accurate.
“We went back and looked at what the needs of the district were,” Martin said. “We keep our buses for 25 years.
The school system has 107 buses on the road. Those that are retrofitted will get either “particulate matter filters” or “oxidation catalyst filters” depending on the age of the vehicle.
Martin said he expects the actual cost of the work will be lower than the $198,000 he originally projected.
If that’s the case, another five to 10 buses will be added to the project.
Both types of filters reduce “particulate matter emissions” that are known to cause aggravated asthma, lung damage and other health problems, especially in younger children, according to the EPA.
The retrofitting process is easy enough. Basically, mechanics will change the mufflers.
The process will take one to three hours for each vehicle.
“We wanted to target older buses that are putting more particulate matter in the air,” Martin said.
Besides, he continued, “newer bus mufflers are welded in. The older ones, they’re clamped in,” making it easier to remove them.
As an added benefit, local mechanics will get the work, increasing the benefits of the project parish wide, Martin said.
Other school systems vied for the grant, but it was the plan Martin put together that sealed the deal for St. Charles, according to Valero environmental agent Jen Arnold.
“We talked to several other people in other parishes,” Arnold said. “We were impressed by what Gary submitted.”