Parents and environmental groups are calling on the Pittsburgh School Board to protect students by reducing emissions from diesel school buses. Members of the Healthy School Bus Campaign tonight are expected to urge School Board members to adopt a policy that would require all school buses in the Pittsburgh School District to be retrofitted for diesel emissions. Rachel Filippini, executive director of the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP), says that dangerous diesel particulates can concentrate inside the bus at 5 to 10 times the rate outside the bus. Filippini says that means the focus can't be just on the tailpipe, but also on the engine so that the particulates are sent out the tailpipe. Filippini says that bus emissions are particularly harmful to children because their lungs are not fully mature and are more sensitive to pollution. She says they know that having all school buses retrofitted "will not happen overnight," but should be addressed by the school district when contracts come due with the school bus companies.
One transportation company, W.L. Roenigk, is taking advantage of the Healthy Bus Fund to pay for the retrofitting of 50 of its buses. Filippini says there's enough money in that fund to retrofit another 20 buses. Companies that use the money have to pay $300 to $500 per bus annually to have the filters cleaned.
The Allegheny County Health Department has offered a similar program for 2 years following a pilot project with the Penn Hills School District. But since then, only the Deer Lakes School District participated in that program to get 10 buses retrofitted. The Health Department's program requires districts to pick up 25% of the cost.