Wed | Dec 7, 2016

Smoke control - Environmental agency developing new Jamaican standards

Published:Sunday | August 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Diesel exhaust coming from the tailpipe of a bus. - Contributed

Sheldon Williams, Sunday Gleaner Writer

The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) is working on developing a policy to eliminate harmful vehicle emissions in Jamaica. To this end, an inspection and maintenance policy, which will require that each motor vehicle's exhaust meets a certain standard before being passed fit, is under consideration.

The policy is being developed for implementation by the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, under the Road Traffic Act.

Steven Panton, acting manager in the Air Quality Management Branch at NEPA, explained to Automotives that as part of due diligence, the agency is reviewing prior -emission proposals before the policy is finalised.

"The motor vehicle emission standards, which were first drafted by the Jamaican Government in 1997 and updated in 2003, are being updated by the agency as we speak, with the timeline for completion of the update being March 31, 2015," he said.

Panton added: "The intention is for a phased implementation of the motor vehicle inspection and maintenance programme, the timelines for which have not been set to date."

Panton pointed out: "It will extend to vehicles having to meet a certain emission standard before being allowed to be imported into Jamaica. For vehicles that are currently on the road that may not meet the proposed motor vehicle emission standards, the phased implementation plan will outline how the policy will affect the car owners."

NOT YET TESTED

The method
of testing has not been decided on, but Panton identified two methods
that could be considered.

"The form the testing will
take in Jamaica is still unknown to date; however, testing in other
jurisdictions usually takes two forms," he insisted.

He explained that "onboard diagnostic testing is
currently available on most new vehicles, and in some jurisdictions is a
requirement for a new car to be imported. The computer in the car is
fitted with diagnostic testing capabilities, which, when fitted to the
right reader, will display the current emissions the car is producing.
This is usually done while the car is either driving under load or on a
dynamometer."

The exhaust pipe, fitted with a gas
sampler, will take a sample of the exhaust.

"Again,
this test is usually done while on a dynamometer, where the car would be
able to simulate being driven under load. This test would most likely
have to be done on most vehicles. It is envisaged that the testing may
have to take both forms in Jamaica, considering the range of the age of
the vehicle fleet in Jamaica," Panton said.

He said
findings from the test would record a number of variables.

"The emissions testing will, at the very least,
record the concentrations of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides,
particulate matter, total hydrogen carbons and non-methane hydrocarbons
and compare it with the standards being developed," Panton
explained.

He said if a motor vehicle fails an
emissions test repairs will be mandatory.

"If the
standards are not being met by the vehicle emissions, the car will not
be passed fit, with the vehicle's owner being provided with the test
readings. The vehicle's owner would then be required to repair the
vehicle for retesting," Panton said. "The frequency of testing has not
yet been decided. Jurisdictional reviews, however, have shown a range
from twice every year to every three years, based on the age of the
vehicle."

Panton pointed out that the findings of a
recent study on motor vehicle emissions' impact on the Jamaican
environment will soon be published. NEPA recently completed analysis
along the Spanish Town Road corridor, between Six Miles and Portia
Simpson Miller Square, and it will be made available to the public
shortly.

"The study included ambient air-quality
monitoring as well as traffic data that is collected by the National
Works Agency. Preliminary findings have indicated an increase in
particulate emissions during peak traffic," he pointed
out.

Panton is also confident that the policy will
have an impact on motor vehicle importation.

"The
intention is that car dealers will only be allowed to import vehicles
that meet the emission standards proposed. Once again, the standards are
for the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing and not NEPA. NEPA has
agreed to assist in the updating of the standards for the Ministry of
Transport, Works and Housing," Panton said.

He
emphasised that emission risk is not dependent solely on the age of a
vehicle.

He said: "New vehicles manufactured in the
last five to 10 years tend to be manufactured to stricter emission
standards than new vehicles manufactured in previous years. This is as a
result of countries requiring that cars meet stricter emission
standards for them to be sold on their markets in recent times. The
emission risk, therefore, depends on not if the vehicle is new or used
or on the age of the vehicle, but how well maintained the vehicle
is."