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Innisfail Arena condenser purchase sidelines other renos

Council immediately supports new funding to replace unit that leaked high levels of ammonia
MVT Arena open
The Innisfail Arena was fully operational and back to hockey for kids and adults following the evacuation on Nov. 22 of all users when the facility's condenser began leaking ammonia. The leak was patched on Nov. 29 and the town is purchasing a new condenser. Johnnie Bachusky/MVP Staff

INNISFAIL – The town has moved quickly to purchase a new condenser for the Innisfail Arena after an ammonia leak from a seven-year-old unit forced an evacuation.

However, the new unit will not arrive for another 20 weeks. In the meantime, the arena will continue to operate with the “patched” current condenser.

The faulty condenser issue was brought up at town council’s 2022 budget deliberations on Nov. 25.

Erica Vickers, the town’s director of corporate services, told council the condenser was a “crucial component” of the refrigeration system that cools the arena floors. She said it had to be repaired immediately, with a new unit purchased as quickly as possible.

The new unit, expected to cost about $112,700, replaces prior budget requests for new flooring in the arena at a cost of $90,000 and an additional $25,000 expense for new bathroom partitions.

“Those did come off because this came on,” said Vickers.

The new condenser will replace the one purchased by the town from Startec Refrigeration in 2014 for $68,780.21, a unit that was hoped to last up to 20 years.

Meghan Jenkins, the director of community services, told council the repairs for the current unit were scheduled to be made on Nov. 29, a temporary solution until the arrival of the new condenser.

Jenkins first advised council on Nov. 22 that the condenser was failing. Council agreed to have the cost of replacement included in last week’s budget deliberations. Hours later there was the ammonia leak at the arena, which forced the evacuation. No one was harmed during the incident.

On Nov. 24, Jenkins told council the evacuation was necessary when alarms alerted staff that high levels of ammonia were being emitted from the faulty condenser, an external piece of equipment located at the back of the Arena.

“Based on the feedback from our contractors when then came that evening the ammonia leaking outside was brought into the facility through the intake fans,” she told council.

Following the evacuation, emergency personnel, along with service contractors, attended and conducted all required inspections. It was then ruled the facility was safe to re-enter.

Jenkins told council it’s hoped the town will be able to have the condenser leak “patched”, and without any “significant downtime”, until the new condenser arrives.

“We are depending on our professional input, and that is their suggested course of action at the current time, and yes, we are hoping (repairs) will get us through the current ice season before the whole unit can be replaced,” Jenkins told The Albertan on Nov. 23.

The Alberta Boilers Safety Association, the provincial pressure equipment safety authority that administers pressure equipment safety programs and has the authority to enforce pressure equipment safety, has to be onsite when repairs are made, she said.

Mayor Jean Barclay asked Jenkins if Startec had any theories about the condenser failure when the seven-year-old unit was expected to last up to 20 years.

Jenkins said she was told by Startec there was a “period of time” that they did see “a bad batch” or some early failures with the units.

“But it is what it is at this point. There is a visible leak where they know where it is,” said Jenkins. “They will patch that leak, and then they will do a pressure test on the system to ensure if there are any others that weren’t visible.”