By JOEL WALSH
Special to The Olathe News
Nearly 150 heavy-duty diesel vehicles in Johnson and Wyandotte counties will soon be running cleaner.
Johnson County Commissioners, on Thursday, approved contracts with MHC Kenworth and Liberty-based Central Power Systems & Services to retrofit diesel engines and add more environmentally-friendly exhaust systems for diesel fleets in Olathe, Overland Park, Shawnee, Merriam, Prairie Village and Gardner.
Four construction companies — Max Rieke & Brothers, O’Donnell & Sons, APAC-Kansas and BRB Contractors — and Wyandotte County’s Unified Government will also share $1 million in federal stimulus funds being allocated by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The effort will help to bring Kansas City into compliance with federal ground-level ozone standards, said Jennifer Logan, ozone reduction coordinator for Johnson County.
The EPA has proposed changing its primary ozone standard from 75 parts per billion to between 60 and 70 parts per billion. According to previous reporting in The Star, Kansas City’s average ozone level was 76 parts per billion for a period ending in 2009.
Logan said if the standard is lowered later this year, “We’re going to be in violation a lot” — perhaps as many as 50 days a year.
That would mean tougher regulations on some of the area’s highest polluting vehicles.
For the construction companies that joined Johnson County in applying for the stimulus money, the initiative is a way to be proactive before those regulations go into effect.
“This is kind of a head start to get in compliance with future emissions standards,” said Dave Hruska, equipment manager for APAC-Kansas. His company will use the roughly $100,000 it is set to receive to add emission-reduction technology to many of its flatbeds, dump trucks and tractor trailers. All upgrades must be complete by October 1.
According to the EPA, ground-level ozone produced by diesel emissions is a primary component of smog.
Logan said it is a health concern for people with respiratory issues, the young and the old and anyone who works outside on a regular basis. Harmful ozone is particular prevalent during the summer months.
Logan said she is not sure whether the effort, by itself, is enough to bring Kansas City into compliance should new ozone standards go into effect, but, she said, “Every little bit helps.”
She estimated the new and retrofitted vehicles would reduce diesel emissions by more than 50 tons per year.
As far as everyday things residents can do to keep ground-level ozone rates low, Logan suggested refueling vehicles at night, mowing the lawn later in the day and turning off a car’s engine when waiting in the drive-through.
“There’s a lot of things that you and I and everyone else can do as individuals that will make a difference.”
Posted on Fri, Jun. 25, 2010 10:15 PM
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