(File Photo)

Due to costs, Prince Rupert will continue to use ammonia at arena

Terrace curling rink received provincial funds to switch to Freon-based system

The Jim Ciconne Civic Centre arena will continue be cooled using ammonia systems for the foreseeable future.

At the Dec.10 City of Prince Rupert council meeting, council voted to approve proposed schedules of capital works and capital purchases. Among those approved works projects was the installation and upgrades of chlorine and ammonia ventilation systems in the city’s recreation complex.

Veronika Stewart, communications manager for the city, said that upgrades to ammonia cooling systems were mandated across B.C. after the fatal ammonia leak in Fernie in late 2017. The city developed design and cost estimates for those upgrades in July in response to these requirements.

“This project was initiated as an upgrade to the existing system, rather than a full replacement, so at this time it is cost-prohibitive to consider a full replacement of the system,” said Stewart, in an emailed statement. “When the system is slated for replacement, the city will definitely explore all alternatives to ammonia.”

In Terrace, the curling club found a means to replace its ice-making system with an ammonia-free alternative.

“Because of the unknown of the regulations and safety concerns of ammonia, we decided to be done with ammonia and move on with a Freon plant,” said Germain Francoeur, curling club board member. “The risk was just too high.”

However, the cost to replace the system is also high — approximately $200,000 for a Freon-based system. The club applied for a provincial grant and in November, they were notified that the province would cover 60 per cent of the costs.

Prince Rupert experienced the risks of an ammonia-based system on July 4, when a 68-kilogram gas cylinder of ammonia being stored in a 20-foot green metal shipping container outside of the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre leaked, sending two individuals to the hospital.

A later inspection by WorkSafeBC found multiple failures in how the ammonia, a hazardous material, was stored at the complex. These failures included the tank’s location, lack of ventilation and lighting, not being secured enough to prevent falling and lack of appropriate inventory.

“Prince Rupert’s July incident was isolated,” Stewart said in her statement. “…Following the incident, WorkSafe and Safety BC have signed off on the storage procedure of all remaining ammonia on site, and the city has put into place a hazardous materials inventory to prevent future incident.”

With files from Brittany Gervais

READ MORE: Two taken to hospital after ammonia leak at recreation center

READ MORE: Inspection report reveals multiple failures in Prince Rupert ammonia leak



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