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Maryland County Gets Greener Response Vehicles

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Firefighters and paramedics -- and those who rely on their services -- will soon be breathing a bit easier in Anne Arundel County.

The latest round of new fire engines and ambulances feature state-of-the-art emissions technology to meet new federal requirements.

"We have people working around this equipment all the time," said Division Chief Michael Cox, a Fire Department spokesman. "It used to be terrible to walk through this stuff."

Because fire engines and ambulances often are left idling when crews are out on calls, they can contribute plenty to air pollution.

But the new requirements for all heavy-duty diesel vehicles, including these four fire engines and eight ambulances, mean each one emits 90 percent less fine particle pollution and 95 percent less nitrogen oxide, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Nitrogen and particulate matter contribute to the ground-level ozone -- or smog -- that fouls the air and aggravates breathing and heart problems, said Marcia Ways, a program manager at the state environment department.

Nitrogen emitted into the air also eventually falls into the water, where it contributes to the Chesapeake Bay's unhealthy levels of algae growth and oxygen-deprived dead zones, Ms. Ways said.

Anne Arundel County is one of the first local governments to buy vehicles meeting the new standard. All new heavy-duty diesels for the 2007 model year and later must meet the new standards.

The actual changes to the vehicles aren't noticeable from the outside -- although there's no dirty-looking black smoke trailing out of the tailpipes.

The changes in technology have names that are quite a mouthful, such as diesel particulate filters and exhaust gas recirculation.

In addition to lowering particle pollution and nitrogen, the new engines also must meet stricter standards for carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons.

The engines cost $381,000 each and the ambulances cost $161,000 each -- about $6,000 more than the last round of purchases.

They'll hit the road in February. The ambulances will go to the Waugh Chapel, West Annapolis, Glen Burnie, Odenton, Deale, Harwood, Arundel and Riviera Beach stations.

The fire engines will go to the South Glen Burnie, Waugh Chapel, West Annapolis and Harmans-Dorsey stations.

The Fire Department buys several new vehicles each year, so eventually the fleet will turn over to all lower-emissions vehicles.

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