ELKHART — A federal rule that is designed to protect air quality in our cities is costing local municipalities thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in manpower.
Municipalities across the country are dealing with stringent air quality standards enacted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2008 as part of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The rules were updated in 2015 and are aimed at protecting the ozone layer and cleaning up pollutants that deplete the ozone.
In Elkhart County, that means municipalities must take a look at emissions produced by diesel trucks used to provide several basic services, such as street paving, snow plowing and street sweeping. Emission control devices – basically, filters that clean exhaust before it exits the vehicle – are being placed on diesel trucks, many of which have serious maintenance issues that require more money and time out of municipality employees.
Kevin Miller, head of Elkhart's Central Garage, which repairs and maintains city-owned vehicles, said the issue is costing him around $20,000 a year.
"They have been a headache and very problematic for us," he said. "We often have to replace the filters, which can be quite costly at $1,200 a filter. I really don't know how the private sector deals with the extra expense."
In Goshen, the situation is not much better. Carl Gaines, fleet manager for the city of Goshen, said he spends around 15 percent of his budget on issues related to the emission control devices.
"The base price of the units also increase every year by a minimum of 3 to 5 percent," he said.