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EPA Honors Western North Carolina Regional Air Quality Agency


Asheville, NC - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Children’s Health Protection recognized the Western North Carolina Regional Air Quality Agency (WNCRAQA) as one of 15 organizations to receive a 2005 Children’s Environmental Health Excellence Award for outstanding commitment to protecting children from environmental health risks.

A special awards ceremony and reception was held on April 21, 2005 at the Army and Navy Club in Washington D.C. to honor the Children’s Environmental Health Excellence Award winners. WNCRAQA received an Excellence Award for its accomplishments in reducing diesel emissions from school buses in Buncombe, Haywood, Madison, and Transylvania counties. The efforts began in 2003 when a portion of the Buncombe county fleet was retrofitted with diesel oxidation catalysts (DOCs). The retrofit project then expanded in 2004 to include the remaining school buses in the Buncombe County fleet, as well as all of the school buses in Haywood, Madison, and Transylvania counties. When installed, the DOC acts as an emission control, reducing diesel particulate matter (PM) released from the tailpipes of school buses. These pollutants are not only harmful to the environment, but also to human health. The project significantly reduced emissions with a 20% decrease in diesel particulate matter, a 20% decrease in carbon monoxide, and a 40% decrease in unburned hydrocarbons. In addition, the schools have implemented an anti-idling policy and are actively training drivers to further reduce emissions. WNCRAQA is now providing assistance to other communities to improve air qualities beyond its boundaries. The actions of the retrofit project are the largest of its kind in the southeastern U.S.

“Protecting children from environmental health risks is fundamental to EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment. While EPA bares much of the responsibility for ensuring that children have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink and safe food to eat, there is a great deal that others can do to make sure that children are protected from environmental threats. The Children’s Environmental Awards program recognizes individuals, communities and organizations who are leaders in making our environment healthier for our children. This year’s 15 winners exemplify what it means to have strong commitment to children’s environmental health, and EPA is proud to be honoring them for their efforts,” said William H. Sanders III, Acting Director Office of Children’s Health Protection.

“WNCRAQA strongly believes in the link between children’s health and their environment,” said Bob Camby, Director WNCRAQA. “Our school bus retrofit project is raising awareness about the importance of protecting children in our community from environmental risks and our example illustrates that taking action is the most effective means to keeping our children healthy.”

This will be the first year for the Office of Children’s Health Protection (OCHP) to hold the Children’s Environmental Health Excellence Award program. EPA established the Office of Children’s Health Protection in May 1997 to make the protection of children’s health a fundamental goal of public health and environmental protection in the United States. OCHP supports and facilitates Agency efforts to protect children’s health from environmental threats. The awards program will recognize both individuals and organizations for their activities in outreach, education, and intervention that protect children from environmental health risks.

For more information about the Children’s Environmental Health Excellence Award, visit EPA at www.epa.gov/children.