Salmon Arm fire crews responded to an ammonia alarm at the Shaw Centre in April of 2018. (File photo)

Salmon Arm arena told to upgrade ice chilling system in 2020 or face closure

Fatal ammonia leak in Fernie prompts Technical Safety BC to order 20-year-old chillers replacement

The ammonia leak at the Fernie Memorial Arena that killed three workers in October 2017 has prompted a $20,000 design plan to upgrade the Shaw Centre in 2020.

Darby Boyd, general manager with Salmon Arm Recreation, reported to city council that during the ice plant shutdown this year, Technical Safety BC (TSBC) required a test of the ammonia chillers, after being in use for 20 years.

During the testing and subsequent remediation work, management was informed by TSBC that the facility would have to close unless an engineer approved the work. Some corrosion was found.

“Fortunately, our refrigeration contractors were able to secure an independent approval as required,” Boyd reported.

But the chillers must be replaced. Boyd told council that Salmon Arm’s are one of the few in the province that are 20 years old.

Read more: 2017 – Shaw Centre’s systems guard against ammonia leaks

Read more: False ammonia alarm at the Shaw Centre

Read more: Ammonia leak triggers evacuation of B.C. hockey arena

Coun. Kevin Flynn said there’s no question what happened in Fernie was a tragedy and there’s no question it put a spotlight on chillers.

What isn’t clear, he said, is if the Shaw Centre chillers are old enough to be replaced.

Boyd said determining the rate of corrosion is up to engineers. The $20,000 he requested would fund the design work for the chiller replacement.

“I think it’s not in question that Technical Safety BC can close the arena without question. Technical Safety BC is not being very flexible at this time,” Boyd said.

Flynn asked for confirmation that if management doesn’t move on having the chillers replaced, the arena could be closed in the new year.

“Yes, that’s what we’ve been told,” Boyd said.

Coun. Debbie Cannon, who sits on the board of the recreation society, said she knows the need for the work and its cost were unexpected.

“I definitely heard Darby’s stress at the time.”

She said she thinks being proactive and getting the chillers ordered is a good plan.

Technical Safety BC issued a news release Oct. 17, urging continued vigilance B.C.-wide regarding ammonia safety.

It stated: “Technical Safety BC’s incident investigation report published on July 25, 2018 revealed that the tragic ammonia release at the Fernie Memorial Arena was caused by decisions to operate an aging ice chilling system past its service life and with a known leak.”

It also provided 18 recommendations in October 2018.

Read more: Fernie mourns after fatal ammonia leak

Read more: Ammonia leak prompts education for Southern Interior

Read more: Ammonia leak shuts down curling club in Nelson

Chelsea Van de Cappelle, the city’s chief financial officer, explained that Boyd was not asking for an increase in funds but a reallocation.

She said council was being asked to approve taking $20,000 from the Shaw Centre Major Maintenance Reserve, which has more than $400,000 currently, and moving it to the Shaw Centre Chiller Replacement Design Fund. While the design work will begin this year, the actual chiller replacement is expected to begin in May of 2020.

In addition, Boyd pointed out that, for other reasons, the Shaw Centre currently has a $42,000 budget deficit while the SASCU Recreation Centre has a $38,000 budget surplus. Van de Cappelle proposed that the rec centre budget be reduced by $38,000 and reallocated to the Shaw Centre operating budget.

Council approved the changes unanimously.

@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

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