The regional district says trace amounts of ammonia leaked from a cooling facility outside Strathcona Gardens but that it posed no risk to staff and the public. File photo

Ice rink services partially resume after ammonia leak in Campbell River

Strathcona Gardens planning to make facility ‘ammonia-free’ in 2019

An ammonia leak caused staff to close one of the arenas at Strathcona Gardens during the weekend, but services partially resumed on Tuesday, according to officials.

Staff shut down an outdoor cooling plant after finding that it was leaking “trace amounts of ammonia” on Saturday, according to a statement from the Strathcona Regional District (SRD).

The SRD said the leak didn’t pose a health or safety hazard, but that it’s taking every precaution to address the problem.

“The facility’s ammonia-detection alarms were not triggered as the trace amounts did not present a risk to staff and the public,” according to the Dec. 3 statement. “No one was injured, and authorities have been notified.”

The closure doesn’t affect the Rod Brind’amour Arena – the main rink at the Strathcona Gardens – where the Campbell River Storm is slated to play against the Victoria Cougars on Friday night.

Staff noticed issues with the cooling plant on Saturday, and found that ammonia was leaking from an evaporative condenser tower located outside the recreational complex. The plant was “immediately taken out of service,” according to the SRD.

Factors including cold weather meant that some activities took place at Arena 2 on Tuesday, said Koreen Gurak, facility manager for Strathcona Gardens

“With it being a bit of a deep freeze outside, we are able to keep that ice cool and we are running at a reduced capacity on Arena 2,” she said. “Very few things have been affected.”

Staff are also using a compressor to cool the ice and constantly monitoring ice temperatures, she said.

The district hopes Arena 2 will be fully operational within the next week. The ice is expected to remain open until the end of March, Gurak said.

READ MORE: Aging cooling system behind B.C. fatal ammonia leak needed replacing in 2010

READ MORE: Fernie mourns after fatal ammonia leak

She said the facility is communicating with users to let them know whether activities will go forward as normally scheduled.

“We’ll be in daily communication as it goes until we get the temporary plant, which is set to be shipped by the end of the week, and hopefully up and running by next week,” she said.

She added that users could contact the facility or check the website of the Strathcona Gardens and the complex’s Facebook page for updates.

SRD staff also said updates would be posted on the regional district’s website and social media channels.

The SRD plans to make Strathcona Gardens “ammonia free” by switching to a carbon dioxide cooling system in the next year, said Victoria Smith, manager of strategic initiatives for the SRD.

She said that money for the project is coming from the Strategic Priorities Fund of the Federal Gas Tax, a levy charged on every litre of fuel at the pump.

Smith added that the SRD is “trying to minimize impacts to users, and thank goodness we’ve got a longer term solution already well in place.”

The new system is being installed ahead of the 2019 ice season, during the facility’s annual shut-down period, and ice generally opens in mid-August, according to Gurak.

Concern about cooling systems using ammonia mounted following fatalities in the B.C. community of Fernie last year. Three men died in October 2017 following an ammonia release at the Fernie Memorial Arena.

The workers were carrying out maintenance on ice-making equipment when the fatal incident took place, according to a report released in August by WorkSafeBC.

@davidgordonkoch
david.koch@campbellrivermirror.com

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