BOSTON —The Wareham school district was chosen to receive $200,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to retrofit the engines on seven older school buses, so they would emit fewer pollutants that are linked to health problems such as asthma and lung damage.

Wareham’s fleet was among four in New England, and 141 in 32 states nationwide, that will receive more than $8.7 million in rebates through EPA's Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) funding. The funds will help pay to replace 452 older diesel school buses with new buses that are more than 90 percent cleaner.

“Parents rely on school buses to safely bring their children to and from school," said Alexandra Dunn, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “These EPA funds to replace older bus engines with cleaner units will mean healthier rides for Wareham kids who ride a school bus every day to get to their school.”

Wareham also received a $200,000 rebate for its school buses two years ago.

Districts and bus companies replacing buses with engine model years of 2006 and older are receiving between $15,000 and $20,000 per bus, depending on the size of the bus. Fleet operators also had the option of retrofitting school buses with engine model years between 1994 to 2006 with a diesel oxidation catalyst, closed crankcase ventilation system, and fuel-operated heater to reduce harmful emissions. EPA will fully fund the cost of these devices up to $6,000.

EPA has put in place standards to make newer diesel engines more than 90 percent cleaner, but many older diesel school buses are still operating with the old engines, which emit large amounts of pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. These pollutants are linked to instances of aggravated asthma, lung damage and other serious health problems.

Since 2008, the diesel program has funded more than 700 clean diesel projects across the country, reducing emissions in more than 70,000 engines.

The other New England awards went to Dattco serving New Britain, Connecticut schools, which received $125,000 for retrofitting seven buses; Five Star Transportation serving Chicopee Public Schools, which received $200,000 for retrofitting 10 buses; and Saco Public Schools in Maine, which received $180,000 for retrofitting seven buses.

--U.S. Environmental Protection Agency