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UGA President Adams, Mayor Davison, EPA to highlight air quality improvements in Georgia

UGA President Adams, Mayor Davison, EPA to highlight air quality improvements in Georgia

Athens, Ga. -University of Georgia President Michael F. Adams will be joined by Athens-Clarke County Mayor Heidi Davison and EPA Acting Regional Administrator Stan Meiburg in an event that highlights how funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are being used to improve air quality and create jobs in Georgia.

The event, from 11 a.m. to noon on Feb. 22 at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education Conference Center and Hotel, will include a demonstration of how filters being installed on UGA buses, Athens Transit buses, garbage trucks and other diesel engines reduce the amount of harmful soot particles in the air we breathe. The demonstration coincides with a day-long workshop at UGA that will educate city and county officials as well as community members on steps municipalities can take to reduce diesel emissions.

“This project highlights the ability of federal, state and local governments to work together with private industry to have a positive impact on our community by providing jobs and creating a cleaner environment,” said Ryan Adolphson, director of the UGA Engineering Outreach Service.

The installation of filters to reduce diesel emissions from 239 vehicles in Athens-Clarke County and Washington County, an Archway Partnership Community, is made possible by $1.7 million in funding from the Environmental Protection Agency through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The filters will reduce particulate matter emissions by more than 60% over the next decade, Adolphson said. In addition to a reduction in particulate matter by half a ton per year-for a total of 6.4 million tons over the life of the vehicles-the filters will reduce emissions of hydrocarbons by 13 tons and carbon monoxide emissions by 91 tons.

Adolphson notes that high levels of soot and other particulate matter have been linked to elevated rates of chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and heart disease. People with breathing problems such as asthma as well as children and the elderly may be particularly sensitive to particulate matter.

In addition to health benefits, the engine retrofits provide short-term and long-term economic benefits. The funding has saved seven jobs in the UGA Engineering Outreach Service that were threatened by state budget cuts, Adolphson said, and has created two new positions in the outreach service to oversee the current emission control program and to design and implement future emission control efforts. An additional position was created in Washington County to implement and monitor the emission control program there, and the purchase of $1.43 million in equipment is estimated to create up to 30 domestic jobs.

Athens-Clarke County and Washington County are both at risk of not meeting federal particulate matter air quality standards, Adolphson adds, and falling into non-attainment can hinder future industrial and economic development by making the area less attractive to businesses.

“This funding really is a win-win for both the economy and for air quality,” Adolphson said.

Additional partners in the day-long workshop include The Georgia Conservancy, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, City of Sandersville, Washington County Board of Commissioners, Washington County Board of Education, Sandersville Technical College, Brentwood School and the Washington County Development Authority.