A Recent Resolution By The City Council Requires Short Idling Times And Annual Tune-ups For Diesel-powered Vehicles.
March 22, 2007
By DANIEL D' AMBROSIO, Hartford Advocate Staff Writer
The Hartford City Council last week passed a resolution to enforce the state ordinance that limits idling time of school buses and other vehicles with diesel engines to three minutes, and to require an annual tune-up of all city-owned vehicles.
A tune-up, notes the resolution, is the “least expensive and most effective way to reduce diesel emissions.”
The council’s action was at least a moral victory for those, like Dr. Mark Mitchell of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice, who are pushing to reduce diesel emissions in the city, especially because schoolchildren are exposed to the fumes.
As Mitchell points out, the exhaust pipe on a school bus is at roughly the same height as a small child’s nose and mouth.
Mitchell said over the past five years, the Environmental Protection Agency has determined diesel exhaust is even nastier than they suspected, responsible for more cancer and other diseases than all other air toxins combined.
“Diesel exhaust is not only associated with asthma and other respiratory diseases, but it is also a major cause of lung cancer,” said Mitchell, a former director of health for the city of Hartford. “Diesel exhaust is known to have more than 40 carcinogens.”
The small particles from diesel exhaust comprise up to 40 percent of the fine particulates found in the air in urban areas. Hartford, New Haven and Fairfield counties are in the top 10 percent of counties nationwide for high levels of particulates, according to Mitchell.
Dr. Robert L. Painter, chairman of the City Council’s Public Works, Parks and Environment Committee, said the asthma rate among Hartford’s children is in the range of 25 percent. Compare that to a national average rate of 7 to 10 percent.
The two interstate highways that pass through Hartford, I84 and I91, only exacerbate the problem, according to Painter, adding to the volume of fine particulates in the air coming from the city’s fleet of school buses.
“The problem with the emissions we have hanging over us is they’re too small to see,” Painter said. Limiting bus idling time and performing annual tune-ups — make sense and make a difference, he added.
City Council President John Bazzano, who also sits on the environment committee, acknowledged the idling time limit is hard to enforce. But he said if the council learns school buses or other vehicles contracted with the city are violating the time limit the council “could take action with the company, whomever it is.”
“This resolution shows we’re serious about this issue and we’ll make a phone call,” Bazzano said.
In addition, said Bazzano, the City Council has “put its money where its mouth is” by calling for yearly tune-ups of city vehicles.
“Whatever we have that needs diesel fuel we’re encouraging all those vehicles to have yearly tune-ups,” Bazzano said.
The city can’t require Naperville, Ill.-based Laidlaw Education Services, the contractor who transports Hartford children to school, to tune up their buses yearly Painter acknowledged, “but they assured us they do that anyway.”