DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Lorne Fleming of Grace Pacific Corp. shows how one of the company's big rigs was retrofitted to reduce its diesel emissions. The added hose carries excess crankcase exhaust gas back into the motor, where it will be burned off instead of coming out of the muffler. The retrofit was part of an EPA program involving both public and private entities aimed at reducing diesel fumes.
Clean-air program targets diesel
Businesses and state facilities are installing devices to cut fumes
The Environmental Protection Agency is spearheading a program to reduce diesel emissions in Hawaii despite "good" to "moderate" air-quality levels for most areas statewide.
"Even though we all live in clean-air areas, we are all affected by diesel pollution," Deborah Jordan, air division director of the EPA, said yesterday at the city's Alapai bus yard.
Chevron U.S.A. Inc. provided $800,000 for the program, which will retrofit 75 diesel vehicles with different emission reduction technologies.
According to the Brookings Institution, Hawaii generates the least amount of carbon dioxide out of 100 U.S. cities surveyed. But evidence of air pollution in Hawaii is clear to anyone who has seen a black plume spew from a diesel-powered vehicle.
People breathe that soot, said the EPA's Michael Mann.
"If you rode on the school buses when you were a kid, then you probably know that smell," Mann said. "If you're smelling that, you're inhaling that, and that is getting lodged in your lungs."
Fine particles released from diesel engine vehicles and inhaled can exacerbate conditions such as asthma or result in premature death, Jordan said.
To reduce diesel pollution, Hawaii organizations collaborated to create "cleaner" vehicles.
As part of the EPA's program, two of Grace Pacific Corp.'s big rigs were fitted with different mechanisms, one with a diesel oxidation catalyst and the other with a closed-crankcase ventilation system, said Joseph Shacat of Environmental Science International.
"We kind of have a dream at Grace Pacific, and that dream is to make Hawaii the microcosm for sustainability for the world," said Bob Wilkinson, president and chief executive officer.
Other applications installed in vehicles through the program can reduce diesel emissions by about 85 percent to 95 percent, says Mann.
In a separate project, Grace Pacific replaced five engines nearly 20 years old, including generators on Kauai and in Kona.
"We care about the community around us and we're going to do what it takes to lower our company footprint not only here on this island but statewide," said Grace Pacific manager Chris Steele.
Other participating organizations include the city, the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, the state Department of Transportation and Aiwohi Bros.
This diesel retrofit program is just the start of the EPA's plans.
"The infrastructure is now in place for future diesel cleanup projects," Jordan said.
The state Department of Health's Clean Air Branch will receive an EPA grant to help build more diesel emission reduction programs in Hawaii.