Five school districts in New Jersey have been awarded grants totaling $810,000 to replace or retrofit older diesel bus engines under a program from the federal government.
The awards from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are part of $7.7 million given to 88 school bus fleets in 27 states under its diesel-emissions reduction program.
The eight-year-old program is designed to reduce pollution linked to health problems caused by soot, or fine particulates, emitted by dirty buses that are associated with such health problems as asthma and lung damage.
In New Jersey, the school bus fleets receiving the grants are Orange, $145,000; Lakewood, $200,000; North Brunswick, $85,000; Toms River, $180,000;
and Wall Township, $200,00.
“Thanks to funding, we are protecting our children from breathing diesel emissions as they travel to school,’’ said Christopher Grundler, director of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality. “Nearly 17,000 of our country’s schools are located within steps of a heavily traveled road, exposing more than six million children to traffic-related pollution at a time when developing lungs are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of pollution.’’
The federal agency has implemented standards to make newer diesel engines more than 90 percent cleaner, but many older diesel school buses are still operating. These older diesel engines emit large amounts of pollutants such as nitrogen oxide and particulate matter, both persistent pollutants in New Jersey.
Since 2008, the federal program has funded more than 700 clean-diesel projects across the country, involving more than 70,000 engines.
New Jersey has its own diesel-engine retrofit program run by the state Department of Environmental Protection, which addresses older diesel engines on school buses and garbage trucks. Since 2008, more than 7,400 school buses have been retrofitted, according to the DEP.