The inspection report from WorkSafeBC following the July 4 ammonia leak in Prince Rupert reveals multiple failures in how the hazardous material was stored at the recreation complex.
An occupational safety officer investigated the incident a day after the ammonia leak.
He discovered that the 68-kilogram gas cylinder of ammonia was being stored in a 20-foot green metal shipping container outside of the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre. The shipping container didn’t have any ventilation or lighting installed. The gas cylinder hadn’t been secured properly to prevent it from falling.
The report reveals that the inventory was not maintained to identify the 68-kilogram cylinder of ammonia was stored in the container.
City representatives and workers were interviewed following the July 4 ammonia leak that resulted in two people being sent to the hospital.
In the report it states “that no one from the City of Prince Rupert had immediately notified the board of the occurrence” and that “this employer did not conduct an assessment on the risks posed by an accidental release from a 68-kilogram cylinder of ammonia, contained in a 20 foot, green metal shipping container.”
Ammonia is a heavy gas and can travel 300-500 metres depending on how much is released into the environment — that includes the Lester Centre of the Arts, McDonald’s, the Doug Kerr Baseball Field, Prince Rupert Middle School and homes on Ninth Avenue West. If the concentration of ammonia in the atmosphere exceeds a certain threshold, it can kill or cause physical harm.
Failure to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation or the Workers Compensation Act could result in the city paying a penalty. In response, Veronika Stewart, the communications manager for the City of Prince Rupert, said the city has complied with all orders provided by Worksafe BC as of July 26, 2018.
“The city is also still continuing an investigation into why the ammonia was kept outside of our approved recreation ammonia storage facility, and will be taking appropriate measures. The city has hired a third-party investigator to conduct an incident investigation, which is ongoing.
“Since the incident, we have completed a full inventory of all hazardous chemicals on site, as per WorkSafe’s order, and will be maintaining it in perpetuity. We remain very concerned that this incident occurred, and continue to extend our sincere apologies to those impacted,” Stewart said.
The City of Prince Rupert had issued a tender for an ammonia ventilation upgrade prior to the July 4 leak at the recreation centre.
A tender notice was issued June 19 for services to upgrade the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre Ammonia Plant’s ventilation system as per WorkSafeBC requirements following the leak in Fernie last October.
The city has awarded a contract for engineering work to develop the plans to update the ammonia venting system at the recreation complex, said the city’s communications manager.
“This project was initiated following updates to WorkSafeBC direction on ammonia venting protocols after the Fernie incident. After a December 2017 WorkSafe inspection, the city was directed to take further precaution to ensure that ammonia is fully exhausted from the building and cannot be blown back in. Although the city’s system had passed all previous inspections, this upgrade to the venting system is an added public safety provision,” Stewart said in an email.
KYSU Consulting will do the design planning for $4,250.
“Once the design plan is developed, the scope of work will be sent to tender. It should be noted that this is a planned upgrade to our venting system, and is unrelated to the July ammonia incident at the recreation complex,” Stewart said.
The incident is still under investigation by a third-party investigator hired by the city.