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Willmar bus going 'green'

WILLMAR -- When school starts on Sept. 7, Willmar students will be riding big yellow buses that have gone "green" under the hood.

Fifteen of Willmar Bus Service's diesel school buses were retrofitted with filters and catalyst mufflers that will reduce their emissions by 50 percent.

"We felt it was the right thing to do," said owner Ken Inselmann. "It's a better quality of air for everyone, and especially for young kids."

Newer buses already have lower emissions and better filtration, Inselmann said, so the majority of his diesel-powered fleet now operates with lower emissions.

Catco of Willmar did the installation this summer. "We decided to do it in the summer when it wasn't going to affect things so much," Inselmann said.

"It was a two to three-month process, with all the paperwork," said Mike Kubesh, assistant manager.

Inselmann said he doesn't expect the new filters to give his buses lower fuel consumption -- this was all about lowering emissions.

"On buses that have the filter on it, you won't notice the black puff of smoke" when they accelerate, Kubesh said.

Drivers shouldn't notice any difference with the performance of the buses, he added.

The company has been doing what it could to reduce emissions before this.

For years, buses have been turning off their engines while stopped at schools instead of letting them idle, Inselmann said.

"We're trying to do our part," he said. "We always try and do what we can."

Project Green Fleet, a collaboration of businesses, government agencies and nonprofit organizations working to improving the state's air quality by reducing diesel emissions, helped provide the funding. Participation in the program is voluntary.

According to a news release from Project Green Fleet, diesel vehicles contribute more than 50 percent of the air pollution generated by all traffic in Minnesota. Studies have shown that pollution levels inside a school bus can be up to five times higher than in outdoor air. Because children breathe more air relative to their body weight than adults, they are especially susceptible to the health problems these pollutants can cause, such as asthma and other upper respiratory ailments.

Since 2005, the project has retrofitted more than 1,700 buses around the state. Project Green Fleet plans to retrofit all eligible school buses in the state within the next several years--a total of approximately 4,000 buses.

In Willmar, the improvements were funded by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Other funding for Project Green Fleet has come from Flint Hills Resources, Andersen Corp., Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Minnesota and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

For more information about Project Green Fleet visit

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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