Ammonia leak at arena forces evacuation
Black Diamond: Schools back to normal, emergency personnel suffer minor injuries
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Tuesday, Sep 24, 2013 12:53 pm
Black Diamond students were outside enjoying their lunch just two hours after spending recess behind closed doors as a precautionary measure following a nearby ammonia leak.
The leak was detected just after 9 a.m. during a routine tank service at the Oilfields Regional Arena, according to Town of Black Diamond legislative services manager Verna Staples.
All persons inside the arena were evacuated and unharmed, including those in the nursery school program in the upper level, who were taken to C. Ian McLaren School across the street.
The school’s principal, Sherry Agasoster-Jones, said the 15 to 20 youngsters joined her school’s Kindergarten class for about 20 minutes before they were picked up and taken home.
Her own students stayed indoors for the morning recess, but by lunch she was told they were safe to go outside for lunch.
“We are back to normal,” Agasoster-Jones said. “We didn’t even say to the kids what was going on. We just said we couldn’t go outside.”
Staff and students at Oilfields High School, located directly beside the arena, are not permitted to access the school’s south entrance and Third Street SW remains temporarily closed from Third Avenue to Sixth Avenue as a precaution, said Staples.
Oilfields High School principal Scott Carey said he was informed around noon students and parents can access the north entrance of the building, but the south doors are not to be used.
“Initially, they had us keep everyone inside,” he said. “It wasn’t a lockdown. We resumed classes as normal.”
Carey said watching the first responders walking around in their hazardous materials suits had little affect on students, who were more disgruntled they couldn’t go outside.
“The students like to have the open campus, especially the high school kids,” he said. “They weren’t necessarily happy about being inside but everyone was a good sport about it.”
Although the leak has been capped, Staples said emergency personnel continue to take precautionary measures.
“We want our residents to be made aware that the street is closed there,” she said, adding no evacuation orders were given to nearby residents. “We have to get it safely dissipated and once that happens life will be normal again.”
The Black Diamond Fire Department and RCMP responded to the leak. Some emergency services personnel are being treated at Oilfields General Hospital for minor injuries related to the leak.
“At no time was there any risk to the public,” she said. “There is no immediate risk to anybody.”
Ammonia is a high odour gas that can cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat. Exposure to more concentrated levels can cause headaches, nausea and intense burning of the eyes, nose, throat and skin or even serious burns and damage to the eyes and lungs.
To get regular updates on the situation go to the Town of Black Diamond home page at www.town.blackdiamond.ab.ca