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Buses getting retrofit to clean air

BURBANK — The Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority approved purchasing new technology Monday that will cut toxic emissions from the Bob Hope Airport’s bus fleet.

The airport will use $171,556 to retrofit 11 diesel buses that are used to shuttle passengers to and from parking lots, with devices called Cleaire Horizon units.

The units, which cost about $15,500 apiece, control the amount of particulate matter that diesel engines release into the atmosphere, said Dan Feger, deputy executive director for the airport.

Particulate matter, which is a byproduct of combustible engines, is linked to numerous adverse health effects, including heart and lung disease.

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Implementing the technology will mean the airport’s entire 14-bus fleet surpasses state standards, which require an 85% reduction in particulate matter release by 2010, he said. The airport authority’s purchase of cleaner-burning diesel buses in 2005 and 2006 already reduced particulate matter by 85% — the new devices extend that figure to 96%.

Three test units were incorporated into the fleet and they are “performing flawlessly,” Feger said.

With the latest modifications, the airport’s shuttle operation will emit 40% less nitrogen dioxide gases than it did in 1996, he said.

“We think that’s a pretty significant improvement in air quality,” he said.

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And the improvements will complement a fleet that already utilizes more environment-conscious technology, airport spokesman Victor Gill said.

“The buses … were a new generation of diesel engines to start with and also they were capable of using, and have been using, low-sulfur diesel fuel,” Gill said. “So they were already providing some benefits, and this really ratchets it up to a maximum.”

The retrofitting is one of the many strides the airport authority has taken in recent years to conduct airport operations within an environmentally responsible framework, Commissioner Charlie Lombardo said.

“Just getting the new buses cleaned up a lot,” he said. “But this will make them even cleaner — so it’s a benefit to everybody. You can’t go wrong doing something that’s good.”

The new device works by trapping particulate matter to keep it from being released into the air, Gill said. Then the bus must be plugged into a power outlet twice a week to clean the filter and ready it for reuse, he said.

Unlike similar systems, the device is capable of containing particulate matter without also releasing nitrogen dioxide gases, he said.

“There is technology that will lower particulate matter, but if it’s not properly designed, it could have the byproduct of also increasing [nitrogen dioxide] emissions,” he said. “So it’s important that we are able to accomplish both goals.”

Airport staffers selected the Horizon technology, because it is the only the product on the market that currently meets California Air Resources Board standards, Feger said.

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The units will be installed the week of Sept. 3.


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