EPA Continues ’Clean Air’ Diesel Program During I-95 New Haven Job

Wed April 30, 2008 - Northeast Edition
James A. Merolla



Nearly all of the complaints about using diesel fuel in the construction industry happen when the fuel goes into the gas tank and contractors notice the exorbitant price — currently more than $4.30 a gallon.

Very few people talk about the impact of diesel fuel when it comes out, but this is just as important.

Because of their efficiency and durability, diesel engines are the workhorses of the U.S. economy and play a critical role in transportation, agriculture, construction, mining and other key industries. Since diesel engines often last hundreds of thousands of miles or run for hundreds of thousands of hours, retrofitting older but valuable vehicles and equipment with many remaining years of operation can significantly improve air quality for the benefit of all citizens.

To help improve air quality in Greater New Haven, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) is implementing new methods for reducing emissions during the I-95 New Haven Harbor Crossing Corridor Improvement Program.

Clean Construction USA, part of the National Clean Diesel Campaign, is a program designed to promote the reduction of diesel emissions from construction equipment and vehicles.

Non-road diesel engines can contribute significantly to the levels of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides in the air. In recent years, EPA has set emissions standards for engines used in most new construction equipment. However, because construction equipment can last 25 to 30 years, it will take many years before existing equipment is replaced with new, cleaner equipment.

Because EPA’s regulations only apply to newly manufactured diesel engines, EPA developed the Clean Construction USA program to assist owners and operators of construction equipment to reduce emissions from the older engines that are in operation today.

Clean Construction USA is encouraging contractors, owners and operators of construction equipment to:

• properly maintain their equipment,

• reduce idling,

• retrofit diesel engines with verified technologies,

• replace older equipment,

• use cleaner fuels and

• re-power equipment (i.e. replace older engines with newer, cleaner engines).

Pilot Program

The I-95 New Haven Harbor Crossing Corridor Improvement Program and its associated projects have been under construction for approximately six years. The completed and active projects involved with the program consist of lane widening, interchange improvements and soil pre-loading for the future construction of the new Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge.

Some 104 pieces of construction equipment have been retrofitted with oxidation catalysts since the beginning of construction in the corridor.

The overall improvement program consists of 19 total projects. Of those 19, six have been completed and four are active. Two of the major contracts include the construction of the Northbound West approach and structure foundations for the new Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge and the Route 34 Flyover, scheduled to begin this summer.

The new bridge and the I-91/I-95/Route 34 Interchange are scheduled to begin January 2010 and June 2011, respectively. Considering the scale of these future projects and the overall quantity of construction equipment that will be involved, there will be a significant number of additional oxidation catalyst retrofits.

ConnDOT also has a pilot program on two projects that consist of furnishing and installing diesel particulate filters on a total of four pieces of non-road construction equipment with engine power ratings of 100 hp (74.5 kW) or more. The selected pieces of equipment will be evaluated by a qualified manufacturer’s representative to determine if the project engine duty cycles and exhaust temperatures meet the device’s recommended values.

The evaluation will include a top-down technology review beginning with the diesel particulate filter, or similar emissions control technology that offers the highest available reductions. The minimum device allowed is an oxidation catalyst.

After the equipment has been removed from the site, a close-out report will be submitted detailing the diesel particulate filter’s selection, installation and utilization on the project. The intent of this program is to demonstrate the potential use of diesel particulate filters on diesel powered non-road construction equipment in real world operations.

Work for Six More Years

ConnDOT officials say that several factors make the area and timing ideal for this initiative:

• Construction takes place along a densely populated corridor

• Reduced chemical and particulate emissions will benefit area residents and visitors, as well as laborers working near diesel engines

• Construction will last for approximately 12 years, in total, a good six years after this writing. The emissions-reduction initiative will reduce the impact on air quality that would otherwise be associated with such a large-scale, long-term construction project.

The first phase of the I-95 project began in the summer of 2002 and the entire project is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2013. Due to the length of the construction period, and the proximity to New Haven, East Haven and Branford, a retrofit program was required to minimize diesel emissions.

This program was built on the experiences of the Central Artery Tunnel (Big Dig) project in Boston, one of the nation’s first emissions reduction programs operated successfully. ConnDOT was encouraged by Boston’s results and eager to implement a similar program in Connecticut.

The Big Dig started in 1992 and began exploring the option of retrofitting equipment in September 1998 because of its proximity to residential communities, medical facilities and other sensitive receptors.

This program initially looked to retrofit approximately 50 pieces of construction equipment. However, due to the number of vehicles used in the tunnel construction, additional equipment was retrofitted, which resulted in more than 100 pieces of construction equipment participating in the program.

Again, around New Haven, over the 7.2-mi. (11.6 km) corridor project, 104 pieces are being retrofitted.

Equipment targeted for retrofitting was located near sensitive receptors such as residential communities and hospitals.

The EPA’s goal is to cut emission levels from construction, agricultural and industrial diesel-powered equipment by more than 90 percent. The new rule hopes also to remove 99 percent of the sulfur in diesel fuel by 2010, resulting in a dramatic reduction in soot from all diesel engines.

Reductions of 40,000

Tons Annually

In New England alone, the rule will reduce smog-forming nitrogen oxide pollution by about 40,000 tons a year — or about what is currently emitted by all of New England’s power plants.

“New Englanders can now look forward to the day when the black puff of smoke from diesel engines is a thing of the past,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office when the initiative was launched in New Haven. “This rule is a major step in improving air quality in Connecticut and the rest of New England, and it will be especially beneficial for the hundreds of thousands of adults and children in the region who suffer from asthma.”

Asthma rates in New England are significantly higher than the rest of the country. All six of the New England states, including Connecticut, have childhood asthma rates above 10 percent.

When the full inventory of older non-road engines has been replaced, officials say that EPA’s non-road diesel program will annually prevent up to 12,000 premature deaths (including 500 in New England), one million lost work days, 15,000 heart attacks and 6,000 children’s asthma-related emergency room visits.

The anticipated costs vary with the size and complexity of the equipment, but are in the range of one to three percent of the total purchase price for most equipment categories. Overall benefits of the non-road diesel program are estimated to significantly outweigh the cost by a ratio of 40 to 1.

A typical piece of construction equipment such as a 175-hp (13.4 kW) bulldozer emits as much NOx and particulate matter as 25 new cars today. In New England, non-road diesel engines account for 40 percent of particulate emissions and 20 percent of NOx emissions from mobile sources. In some urban areas, the percentage can be even greater. There are approximately 250,000 pieces of diesel equipment operating in New England.

In Connecticut, EPA estimates there are more than 50,000 pieces of diesel equipment. These non-road engines account for more than half of the particulate matter emissions and about a third of NOx emissions from mobile sources.

By 2015, a traffic level of 140,000 to 150,000 vehicles per day has been forecasted over I-95 through the New Haven area.

Retrofit Retroactive

From 2000

ConnDOT started to look at the possibility of a retrofit program linked to the I-95 New Haven Harbor Crossing one year before the advertising of the first construction contract. Back in October 2000, ConnDOT formed an air quality working group, which investigated the benefits and costs of implementing a diesel emission control program.

The group included personnel from various offices within ConnDOT, and experts from Parsons Brinckerhoff, New England States for Coordinated Air Use Management, Connecticut Department Environmental Protection, Department of Motor Vehicles and Connecticut Construction Industries Association.

It was decided early on that the diesel emission control program would combine the non-road diesel-powered equipment with the inspection of highway diesel vehicles.

Four different scenarios (technologies) that could be implemented to reduce air emissions during construction were identified. Two included diesel engine retrofit technologies, such as oxidation catalysts and/or four-way catalysts; while two others included the use of cleaner fuels, Biodiesel B-20 Blend and/or PuriNOx. Any of these four technologies could be applied partially and in combination with the others. All had logistical and cost advantages and disadvantages that were evaluated prior to implementation.

All work is being conducted to ensure that no harmful effects are caused to adjacent sensitive receptors, such as schools, hospitals and elderly housing. Diesel-powered engines are now located away from fresh air intakes, air conditioners and windows.

The cost of retrofitting equipment or using clean fuels is included in the general cost of the contract, as bid by each contractor. Whereas a contractor who owns equipment may be more likely to install the retrofit apparatus, one who rents equipment may opt to use clean fuels.

On I-95 New Haven Harbor Crossing projects, no adverse operational problems or additional maintenance costs have been reported for construction equipment retrofitted with oxidation catalysts. With proper installation, and as long as a system is not stressed beyond its design limitations, equipment warranties are not affected by installation of retrofit products.

Because existing construction equipment can operate for more than 20 years, it may be 20 or more years before the full benefits of EPA’s standards are realized.

The Connecticut Clean Air Construction Initiative has and will continue to have an immediate impact on the air quality in New Haven and the surrounding communities. The retrofitting of non-road diesel engines with oxidation catalysts and diesel particulate filters is a simple solution to reduce diesel exhaust emissions from equipment used on state construction projects.

ConnDOT representatives say they are hopeful that their program will continue to grow beyond the New Haven area and be included in other transportation improvement projects along Connecticut’s expressways.

$5.4 Million in Northeastern EPA Grants

Nearly $5.4 million in grants and innovative financing are available to Northeastern communities and organizations working to significantly reduce diesel emissions and improve public health.

In March, EPA’s Regions 1 and 2 issued the 2008 Northeast Diesel Collaborative Emissions Reduction Request for Proposals from regional, state and local governments, federally recognized tribes, port authorities, environmental organizations, colleges and universities, hospitals, and others interested in establishing innovative projects to reduce diesel emissions in their communities.

The Northeast Diesel Collaborative (NEDC) is a partnership of public and private organizations working to improve air quality by taking action to reduce diesel pollution. The NEDC was established in 2005 by the U.S. EPA’s Regions 1 and 2, the “Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management” and the states and territories of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Puerto Rico joined in 2007.

The March 2008 request for proposals makes approximately $5.4 million available for clean diesel projects in the eight northeastern states, including tribal lands belonging to the federally recognized tribes in these regions, or the territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands, or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Projects can involve cleaner fuels, idle reduction and retrofit technology for a range of diesel engines, including school and transit buses, port equipment and construction vehicles.

EPA will host a question and answer sessions via teleconference on Wednesday, May 7 from 2 to 4 p.m. to answer questions and provide additional information about this funding competition.

For more information, call 866/299-3188. CEG