The Breathe Project and Allegheny County Health Department are providing $1.6 million to small companies to make their diesel construction vehicles more environmentally friendly. This is the second round of grants to the Small Construction Contractors Retrofit Program which is operated by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Air Management Association.
Caren Glotfelty is the senior director of The Heinz Endowments’ Environment Program, which is a Breathe Project coalition sponsor. She says retrofits can be costly.
“Small pieces of equipment can have retrofit filters applied. It may cost ten or 20 thousand dollars to retrofit,” said Glotfelty. “But if you need to repower a large piece of construction equipment, it can run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
According to Dr. Ron Vorhees, acting Health Department Director, diesel powered construction equipment contributes to air emissions that add to the region’s air pollution problems.
"In Allegheny County, diesel exhaust contributes mroe cancer risk than fixed industrial sources," said Vorhees. "This project will help reduce air pollution-related health risks."
Glotfelty said the vehicle upgrades can last a long time.
“Filters, for example, will last years, probably a decade or two, as long as they’re maintained well,” said Glotfelty. “If you repower an engine, that’s like rebuilding an engine and adding pollution control to it. That will double the life of the engine. “
Glotfelty said they felt the need to offer these grants to small construction companies after Pittsburgh instituted new environmental regulations. She said retrofitting is easier for large construction companies, but the small ones need the financial help to stay competitive.
Applications are now being accepted. To be eligible the company must have no more than $33.5 million in annual receipts which is the designation for a small business by the Small Business Administration. Over the next two months the grants will be awarded to about 30 projects.