Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The elderly breathe easier when Ecology, Clallam Transit reduce diesel exhaust

By Frank Van Haren, Air Quality Environmental Specialist

Resident David Musielak and Highland Commons Manager Wendy Hemmert in front of Clallam Transit's retrofitted para-transit buses.
In the fall of 2014, Ecology received a letter from David Musielak of Port Angeles seeking help to reduce diesel engine idling at his residence. David, who resides at Highland Commons, a senior apartment complex, told us that when Clallam Transit’s para-transit buses stop to pick up residents, the drivers often leave their buses idling right in front of the apartment building — filling the lobby and apartment units with noxious diesel exhaust fumes.

An investigation of the situation revealed that the bus drivers leave their engines idling for several minutes while they go inside to assist wheelchair-bound residents. The engines had to be left running to provide power to operate the lights, signage, chair lift, and ramp.

You might ask yourself why should we be concerned about diesel exhaust fumes? Diesel emissions contain a hazardous mixture of pollutants that have serious health effects. Diesel exhaust has been linked to the onset or worsening of most major, chronic and/or terminal diseases, including cancer, emphysema, auto-immune disorders, asthma, heart disease, stroke, and the underdevelopment of children’s lungs. When inhaled, fine particles in diesel exhaust penetrate deep into the lungs and remain there indefinitely to aggravate or create both lung and heart conditions. Research also indicates diesel exhaust emissions cause premature deaths of people who are regularly exposed to these toxins. For these reasons, diesel exhaust is considered one of the most toxic forms of air pollution.

And, diesel exhaust harms vulnerable populations more than the general population. Vulnerable populations are children, people with existing health problems such as heart and respiratory disease, and the elderly.

The Solution

After a few conversations between Ecology staff and Clallam Transit’s operation and fleet maintenance managers, it was decided to explore technology options that would reduce the need to idle. Clallam Transit and Ecology each agreed to cover 50% of the cost to retrofit four para-transit buses with an idle reduction system. Ecology covered our portion of the
cost with funds from the Washington State Clean Diesel Grant program. Ecology and Clallam Transit contracted with Cummins Northwest, a local idle reduction technology vendor, to develop the system, provide the equipment and help Clallam Transit install it.

The system combines two idle reduction technologies:

  1. A Webasto fuel fired heater that pre-heats the engine coolant system, thus eliminating the need to use the main engine to warm the bus cabin and defrost the windows in the morning or during periods of standby. The heater uses a fifth of the fuel the bus engine uses while idling.
  2.  A pair of auxiliary batteries that provide 100% of the power to operate the chair lift and ramp, signage and lighting. The system is programmed to automatically shut down the engine after one minute in park and switch to the auxiliary batteries.

In addition, Ecology provided “No Idle-Zone” signs. Highland Commons installed the signs where the buses park to pick up passengers.

The idle reduction systems have now been in operation for five months and, according to David and other Highland Commons residents, there has been a noticeable reduction in idling. Clallam Transit measured the fuel savings from not idling for the first five months and estimate they will save $2,080 per year for all four buses.
Project partners (l to r): John Lightner, Cummins NW customer support manager; Terry Donovan, Clallam Transit mechanic; and Kevin Gallacci, Clallam Transit fleet maintenance manager.

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