Arenas manager Gavin Hamblin updates the SRD board on the ice plant. Photo by Mike Chouinard/Campbell River Mirror

Strathcona Regional District awards contract for new arena ice system

Strathcona Gardens will use temporary Freon system for Arena 2 for rest of season

The SRD board has moved to prepare a contract for a new ice system at Strathcona Gardens.

Part of the Strathcona Gardens REC-REATE PROJECT includes an energy recovery component worth just over $4.6 million. This breaks down into four main components: an energy recovery system, high efficiency air handlers, ice melting pits and photo-voltaic solar system.

RELATED STORY: Energy upgrades to move ahead at Campbell River recreation complex

Installing a carbon-dioxide-based refrigeration system system for the arenas will be at the top of the list. At the Dec. 6 board, the SRD passed a motion to draw up a contract for the work for CIMCO Refrigeration Ltd. The timing was a bit of coincidence in light of the recent closure of the arena following the detection of a small amount of ammonia from one of the arena’s ice plants.

RELATED STORY: Arena services partially resume after ammonia leak in Campbell River

As Gavin Hamblin, manager of arenas and facility operations, told the board the replacement of the arena ice plants was planned to be done at an early stage. The SRD had already diagnosed some issues with its equipment as well.

“Our infrastructure was aging and needed to be taken care of,” he told the board.

An incident in Fernie, B.C., in which three workers died as a result of exposure to an ammonia leak at the local arena, also made changes a greater priority. Hamblin said there were changes around regulations and enforcement in the province. This resulted in decommissioning some equipment locally.

As far as the energy upgrade work, the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) Strategic Priorities Fund, previously known as Gas Tax funding, had granted the SRD approximately $4.6 million as part of the REC-REATE project. An SRD staff report puts the cost of replacing both ammonia plants at Strathcona Gardens at $1.9 million.

The SRD had undertaken an energy study as part of the schematic design process for the recreation complex. One of the recommendations was to replace the ammonia system for the arena with a carbon dioxide system.

“It’s a proprietary system, it’s patented in Canada, and they’re the only operators capable of installing it,” Hamblin said. “There’s a lot of advantages to switching to CO2.”

Among these, according to a staff report, are that it eliminates need for a full-time operator and annual inspections of older equipment and removes safety concerns from ammonia. The reports also indicates it is more efficient and should reduce operating costs.

Charlie Cornfield, one of the Campbell River directors on the SRD board, asked whether CIMCO would be the only company that could do maintenance or repairs. Hamblin responded that this was not necessarily the case and this work could be put out through a separate tendering process.

He also answered a question from Area C Director Jim Abram that the CIMCO model is a completely closed system in terms of emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Area D Director Brenda Leigh asked whether the new carbon-dioxide equipment will be located inside or outside the building. Hamblin said most of it will be inside the building, which he explained will make it easier for them to monitor in the event of any leaks.

Hamblin also updated the board about the leak at Arena 2. Staff had noticed temperature issues with the ice plant. Subsequent investigation revealed a small leak from an evaporative condenser outside the building.

“It was just trace amounts of ammonia leaking out over a period of time,” he said.

The SRD will be using a temporary Freon-based refrigeration plant for the neat future.

“It’s a stand-alone plant that is going to operate … for the rest of the season,” he added.

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