Free gas cap checks to reduce emissions

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 1, 2011

By Kathy Chaffin
Center for the Environment
SALISBURY — The Center for the Environment’s Campaign for Clean Air staff offered a free gas cap check to Schneider Electric employees June 21 while participating in the company’s third annual wellness fair.
Only two of 42 vehicles tested — 3.7 percent — were found to be leaking emissions through gas caps and received free replacements.
Campaign Intern Kacey Hoover said there are a lot of misconceptions about gas cap leaks. One is that the “Check Engine” light will come on if emissions are leaking from the gas cap, but that’s not always the case.
The “Check Engine” light wasn’t on in one of the vehicles that failed the gas cap check, Hoover said, and the other vehicle that failed, a 1978 model, didn’t even have an indicator. Leaking gas caps contribute to air pollution and waste fuel. One leaking cap releases about 200 pounds of evaporative emissions a year — equal to about 30 gallons of fuel.
June McDowell, another Campaign intern, and volunteer Dawn Grant helped Hoover with the gas cap check. Shelia Armstrong, outreach coordinator for the Campaign for Clean Air, helped man the tent outside for gas cap checks and the information booth inside at the wellness fair. The replacement caps and fuel cap tester systems and adapters were purchased with Campaign for Clean Air funds.
One of the guests at the wellness fair, Jane Hartness, who represented her employer, Habitat for Humanity, and the Humane Society of Rowan County, which she serves as president, had her gas cap checked. Hartness said she didn’t know that gas caps could leak. Her 2009 sedan passed.
Schneider employee Bertram Barco, who commutes to work from Charlotte, said he was in the eighth grade when he first began having concerns about the environment. He recalled hearing about the pollution in Los Angeles and thinking, “You know what, kids are going to have lung problems.”
Some of the Schneider employees who stopped by the booth appeared to be surprised and concerned when they found out that Rowan County was ranked 17th (of counties monitored) for having the worst ozone levels in the nation, according to the 2011 State of the Air Report released by the American Lung Association. The Charlotte-Gastonia-Salisbury metropolitan area was ranked 10th for the worst ozone levels, and was the only area on the East Coast to make the top 10.
John Pitel, safety, health and facilities manager for Schneider, said the wellness fair started as a companywide initiative. “At Schneider Electric, one thing we do is promote safety,” he said. “They want the safest work force out there. Their other goal is to have the healthiest workforce out there.”
Since then, Pitel said the wellness fair has become an annual event at Schneider. “It’s grown every year,” he said.
Kristen Paustian, shipping coordinator for Schneider and member of the Healthy Lifestyle Committee which plans the wellness fair, said the first event featured between eight and 12 venders. Twenty, including a wide variety of health, fitness and environmental businesses and agencies, participated in this year’s fair.
Schneider Electric is one of the leading global companies in its environmental initiatives. “We are an environmentally sustainable company,” Schneider General Manager Mark Seifel said. If he books a flight to a meeting, for example, the invoice includes the amount of carbon emissions required for the trip.
Seifel said Schneider has undertaken several different approaches to be better stewards of the environment, including achieving ISO 14001certification for its facilities. The certification is awarded to companies with practices in place to identify and reduce all varieties of environmental impacts such as emissions discharge into the air, stormwater run-off from buildings and waste generated and not recycled but sent to the landfill.
Chris Idol, products specialist at the Salisbury location, said he participated two years ago in developing a calculation methodology to calculate Schneider’s carbon footprint in downstream distribution of products.
Schneider Electric is one of the sponsors of the Center for the Environment’s Campaign for Clean Air.