CARB OKs modified Cleaire DPF three months after fire

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | 12/15/2011

A major fire displaced hundreds of people south central Washington in September, eventually prompting the California Air Resources Board to prohibit the sale of LongMile and Allmetal diesel particulate filters.

The DPFs manufactured by Cleaire have been modified and are now back on the market.

In an executive order posted last week, CARB said the agency had verified design modifications to the Cleaire’s company’s LongMile DPF system and has lifted the suspension on sales of LongMile filters for on-road truck use.

Gale Plummer, CEO of Cleaire, confirmed that the company was selling its LongMile filters.

“Yes, CARB has cleared us to sell the LongMile back onto the on-highway market again,” Plummer said. “And we’re very excited about that.”

Beginning Sept. 7, firefighters worked to contain a fire that destroyed more than 100 structures, including at least 29 residences. The fire evacuated 300 people, and more than 800 firefighters reportedly were called to contain it.

Investigators reportedly keyed on a single spark from a diesel particulate filter on a truck that was driving near a monastery Sept. 7 near Goldendale, WA. Newspapers showed pictures of nuns from the Monastery of St. John the Forerunner taking buckets of water to battle the fire as it started spreading. As of Wednesday, no agency had definitively blamed the specific DPF for the fire.

The fire remains under investigation, according to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

Two days after the fire started, San Leandro, CA-based Cleaire Advanced Emission Controls told CARB about a failure with one of its units.

CARB ordered the company to suspend sales of the units on Sept. 17. During the suspension, Cleaire replaced LongMile DPFs with a part that didn’t eliminate diesel particulate but was viewed as more safe. In the meantime, CARB and Cleaire worked to approve a modification of the filter.

On Wednesday, Plummer said the new filters “have a different alarm strategy, and we have a containment that will be added to the device.”

The DPF models in question were pulled off the market for nearly three months.

Plummer said owners of LongMile systems should have already been contacted by the dealer where they bought the DPF. Arrangements can be made to modify their LongMile filters, he said.

Plummer said questions remain concerning the fire’s spark, and said he has no evidence that a LongMile filter started the fire.

“We don’t believe there was a defect in our device,” Plummer told Land Line Magazine. “But obviously we can’t say that until the research is done.”

Cleaire continues to work on a solution similar to the LongMile adjustment for the company’s Allmetal system for off-road diesels, Plummer said. Because more customers were affected by the LongMile on-road system, it was prioritized ahead of the Allmetal change.

While the fire still burned in mid-September, officials estimated the fire had cost more than $2 million to fight. The Yakima-Herald newspaper reported that nearly 900 firefighters throughout the state who were called to help fight the fire.

The parts company and CARB have issued few comments about the fire or the product’s potential role in the fire. If the fire investigation does blame the filter, both entities are potential targets for civil lawsuits from those affected by the 4,200-acre fire.

Plummer said he couldn’t comment on any potential legal matters.

“We remain thankful that there were no personal injuries associated with it whatsoever,” Plummer said. “That’s what really matters.”

CARB and Cleaire have a history.

Tom Swenson, Cleaire’s vice president of distribution, worked with CARB for 10 years as program manager at the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District.

Last July – nine months after CARB issued its approval for the LongMile DPF system, CARB awarded the CARB Haagen-Smit Clean Air Award to Cleaire President and Chief Technology Officer Brad Edgar.

The award, CARB’s highest honor, is named after Dr. Arie Haagen-Smit, CARB’s first chairman.