The Nelson Curling Club is raising a red flag about its on-site refrigeration plant, saying its members aren’t qualified to operate it.
Inspections by WorkSafe BC and Technical Safety BC found the plant to be non-compliant and in need of updated safety documentation, as well as repairs.
Club president Gordon Wiess says there’s no immediate danger of an ammonia leak such as the one in Fernie that killed three people in October 2017. But he’s asked the Regional District of Central Kootenay to take over operations of the plant, something he thinks the club should never have been in charge of in the first place.
“The operation of the plant, as you can imagine, is a fairly technical process that requires expertise, particularly because [ammonia is] known to be a dangerous material,” said Wiess.
“I think it’s come to the point now, especially with the exposure and the attention it’s getting, it’s become apparent there are significant responsibilities and liabilities if anything should happen. As a volunteer organization, we feel we’re not confident and we’re not willing to carry that liability because we don’t have the same expertise that the RDCK has.”
The club’s building is actually owned by the City of Nelson, but Wiess said the club reached out to the RDCK because it has staff operating in the adjacent Nelson and District Community Complex who are experienced at operating and maintaining refrigeration plants.
A preliminary report made public at Tuesday’s recreation commission meeting estimated it would cost the regional district $16,973 to operate the facility.
Seven WorkSafe BC orders include items such as an ammonia refrigeration risk assessment, ammonia monitoring, alarms and an evacuation plan.
Technical Safety BC meanwhile found evidence of corrosion at the plant, combustible material in the machinery room, improper location of emergency shutdown and fan switches, and vestibule doors that are placed incorrectly.
Wiess said the club plans on paying for the plant’s upgrades, which he estimated will cost $20,000 and need to be completed by next spring.
“We’re trying our best to get money together to pay for all these things so that if we do turn the plant over to the RDCK, then we’re turning over a healthy plant,” said Wiess.
It’s unclear which party would be liable if an ammonia leak were to occur at the building. The curling club built the rink in 1973, sold it to the city in 1994 and stayed on as a tenant under a 20-year lease. That lease, however, expired in 2014 and was not renewed.
The faulty plant is the latest in a series of setbacks for the club.
An effort to find funding for a proposed concrete floor that would allow the club to operate in the off-season failed. Then, last December the club revealed a $33,160 deficit and told the city it could no longer afford to stay open under the current arrangement.