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In Our Opinion: How to lose an ammonia tank— ask the city

How did a 68kg cylinder of ammonia remain unseen after multiple audits and assessments
The WorkSafeBC inspection report revealed that the City of Prince Rupert failed to conduct an assessment on the potential risks following the ammonia release. Ammonia is a heavy gas that can spread from 300-500 metres. (Google Maps)

In Fernie, an aging cooling system was determined to be the cause of a fatal ammonia leak, but in Prince Rupert an ammonia leak at our civic centre appears to be the result of either ignorance or disturbing incompetence.

How did a 68-kilogram (150-pound) gas cylinder of a deadly gas end up in an unidentified metal shipping container, within the reach of homes, a baseball park, a public golf course, an arts centre, a fast food restaurant and a school?

Following the tragic deaths at the Fernie arena, the Northern View asked the City of Prince Rupert if the use of ammonia at its hockey arena was safe.

Despite their assertions that an external risk assessment and audits by Technical Safety BC and upgrades were underway to meet WorkSafeBC requirements, a large tank of ammonia remained unsecured and dangerous just outside the civic centre.

The specific details on how the leak on July 4 occurred remains unclear. In the end, two people were sent to hospital and a large swath of unsuspecting public was put at risk.

City manager Robert Long said at July 23 council meeting that the WorkSafeBC report may not be made public.

Fortunately, WorkSafeBC was more forthcoming, and provided the Northern View with the report on Aug. 10.

The report shows that the city failed to immediately notify the safety board after the leak. The report also shows those responsible at the city failed to conduct an assessment on the potential risks following the ammonia release.

Each of these failures demonstrates the city wasn’t forthcoming with both the public and WorkSafeBC.

This could either be a cover up or pure incompetence, or one because of the other.

The less transparent the city is on the matter leaves more room for the imagination.

We were all assured that the city was on it. But as we now know, they were not.

To compound the problem, they attempted to keep everyone in the dark, just like that deadly tank of ammonia.

We now see how that worked out.

In seems outrageous to say that two people being sent to hospital was lucky.

But in this case, those at the City of Prince Rupert responsible for this near catastrophe are lucky they may now just have to answer some tough questions from a third-party investigator rather than a jury.

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