The Nelson Curling Club has been shut down by an ammonia leak. Photo: Tyler Harper

UPDATED: Ammonia leak shuts down curling club in Nelson

The club says it can’t afford to make repairs on its own

An ammonia leak has shut down the Nelson Curling Club.

Club president Gordon Weiss said inspectors found a pocket of ammonia underneath a layer of insulation during a mandatory examination of the rink’s refrigeration system Wednesday.

Weiss said no one was injured by the leak. A Valentine’s bonspiel scheduled for Friday was cancelled prior to the leak being made public, and Weiss said no curling will be played again before the season ends in March.

“Disappointing, no question. We’ve had more teams go to the provincial playoffs this year than we have the last couple of years. The percentage of new curlers is really, really positive,” said Weiss.

“We seemed to be moving in the right direction. All we want to do is curl and provide curling for the community and work on building and growing the sport. That’s what we want to do. We don’t want to operate an ammonia plant.”

It’s not clear where the leak originated. Weiss said the incident may necessitate the complete replacement of the plant, but couldn’t estimate how much that would cost.

An ammonia leak at a rink in Fernie killed three people in October 2017. Last year, the Nelson rink failed inspections by WorkSafe BC and Technical Safety BC, which at the time did not find an ammonia leak but determined the refrigeration plant was in need of repairs.

In October, the curling club requested operation of the plant be taken over by the Regional District of Central Kootenay.

“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 Weiss at the time.

“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 rink was built in 1973 and purchased by the City of Nelson in 1994. The curling club stayed on as a tenant with a 20-year lease that made all building repairs the responsibility of the club.

But the club has operated without a lease since 2014 and has struggled financially for several years. It announced a nearly $20,000 loss at its annual general meeting in December.

Mayor John Dooley said he was relieved there were no injuries due to the leak, and the incident will make the building’s future a priority for city council. He acknowledged the topic is hardly new.

“Questions have been around mainly since the Midsummer Bonspiel ended [in 2008], but the curling club to their credit kept things alive and tried to keep things going and hopefully they’ll be able to survive this dilemma that they’re in now as well,” said Dooley.

Curling’s future in Nelson is also tied to the unanswered question of who exactly is responsible for the building.

Although the city owns the building, the lack of a lease means no one party is currently obligated for its upkeep. There is also the question of whether funding should come in part from the Regional District of Central Kootenay, because it has residents who also use the club.

Colin McLure, Nelson’s chief financial officer, said he doesn’t believe the city is responsible for the ice plant but that doesn’t preclude both parties working together to find a solution.

“The other question is, as sports have changed, is six sheets of ice the best use of that building? That becomes one of those questions we get to the community and find out. What about a climbing wall? What about a parkour place? What about squash? This may open it up to an opportunity to have a larger view of that building.”

For now, Weiss said the club can’t afford to fix the refrigeration plant on its own if it hopes to resume curling next October.

“We don’t want to manage, we don’t want to operate, we don’t want to be responsible for the ammonia plant,” he said.



tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Nanaimo a prime market for new plane, Air Canada says

Vice-president previews Airbus A220, praises Nanaimo’s growth in passenger numbers

Air Canada expects Boeing 737 Max to resume flying by September or October

Air Canada isn’t worried about safety of the planes, says vice-president

Late-night summer sailings to Horseshoe Bay won’t connect with buses

B.C. Ferries advises passengers on 10:40 p.m. sailings to look at other transportation options

Indoor Busking Festival to be held this week in Nanaimo

Fundraiser concert to feature singers recruited from the Harbourfront Walkway

Mount Benson park users now have 100 more parking spaces

Regional District of Nanaimo opens new parking lot on Benson View Road

VIDEO: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ to be re-released with new footage

‘Avatar’ holds global box office record at $2.788 billion, while ‘Endgame’ stands at $2.743 billion…

Comox Samaritan covers bear with blanket, gets a big surprise

Conservation officer says person lucky after animal hit by car in record year for bear encounters

Victoria double murder trial: Blood splatter analyst found no shoe prints on scene

RCMP analyst testifies to smears, fingermarks, ‘swipe and wipe’ patterns around apartment

B.C. teen killed by falling tree near Victoria

Second youth also injured in freak incident during field trip at Camp Barnard near Sooke

POLL: How often do you see motorists throw cigarette butts out the window?

How often do you see motorists throw lit cigarette butts out the… Continue reading

Elias Pettersson wins Calder Trophy as NHL’s top rookie

Vancouver forward first Canuck to win award since Pavel Bure in 1992

Editorial: Make it out to the night market this summer

First Commercial Street Night Market of the summer is this Thursday, June 20

FVRD chair calls B.C. incineration plan for Philippines waste ‘disturbing’

Metro Vancouver ‘uniquely capable’ of safely disposing of waste coming back to Canada, say officials

VIDEO: Acknowledging skeptics, finance minister vows to build Trans Mountain project

Bill Morneau said he recognizes ‘huge amount of anxiety’ in Calgary over future of oil and gas sector

Most Read