Small hole in pipe causes big hole in ice availability

A small hole in a pipe in the refrigeration system at the Port Moody recreation complex didn’t pose a risk to public safety but will mean one rink is out of commission until at least early October.

Kate Zanon, the city’s general manager of community services, said the hole was detected during a routine examination in August and the refrigeration system was immediately shut down as a precautionary measure to ensure no ammonia — which is used to create the chilling temperatures — could escape.

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Almost a year ago, a leak of anhydrous ammonia gas at an arena in Fernie, B.C. resulted in the death of three workers. Residents from 55 nearby homes were also evacuated as a precaution.

Last July, an investigation by Technical Safety BC concluded the leak was a consequence of a small hole in the refrigeration system used to cool the arena’s curling ice that was caused by corrosion in a welded seam of the 31-year-old chilling plant. That’s as much as 10 years longer than the typical service life of such a system and seven years after a maintenance contractor recommended the system be replaced.

That replacement was scheduled for 2013, then deferred until the next year and then eliminated from Fernie’s budget planning altogether, said Technical Safety BC’s report.

Zanon said the ice plant for Arena 2 was fabricated in 2005 and put into service in 2008.

In the wake of last October’s tragedy in Fernie, managers of all ice facilities in the Tri-Cities said operators with proper certification were following strict protocols for dealing with ammonia and safety procedures were updated. Port Moody Fire Rescue also completed a review of the refrigeration system at the city’s rec complex.

WorkSafe BC has rigorous requirements for handling ammonia in its Occupational Health and Safety Regulation because exposure to the gas can cause serious injury or death.

Zanon said it still hasn’t been determined whether the refrigeration plant at PoMo's Arena 2 can be repaired or whether it needs to be replaced. Arena 1 is not affected.

User groups that include Port Moody Minor Hockey, Inlet Skating, Tri-Cities Female Ice Hockey and Port Moody Old Timers Hockey have been shifted to that arena or to ice time at Planet Ice in Coquitlam. The first session of the city’s Mini Skate lessons program was cancelled and participants were given the option of transferring to the second session, which is scheduled to begin the week of Oct. 16.

Zanon added public skate times are unaffected as they’re not supposed to begin until mid-October.

— with files from Diane Strandberg

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