Ammonia leak causes minor injuries
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 02, 2013 08:48 am
Four people were treated for minor injuries resulting from an ammonia leak in Black Diamond’s curling rink beside the Oilfields Regional Arena on Sept. 24.
A peace officer and arena employee were treated for chemical inhalation and two firefighters treated for minor burns at the Oilfields Regional Hospital in Black Diamond as a result of the leak.
It occurred when a worker from an outside company was pouring ammonia into a bucket filled with water as part of a routine service for the rink’s refrigeration system. The hose slipped and the worker immediately left the rink with no injuries, according to Black Diamond Fire Chief Jamie Campbell.
Turner Valley RCMP Cst. Tom Christie said a peace officer was in the area and smelled the ammonia at around 9 a.m. She evacuated the three people in the attached arena and a preschool in the upper level and called 911. Neighbouring Oilfields High School and C. Ian McLaren School were also informed to ensure no one left either building.
RCMP as well as the Black Diamond and Turner Valley fire departments arrived on scene shortly after and closed off Third Street SW to Sixth Avenue as a precaution while securing the leak and cleaning up the spill, said Christie.
“We weren’t letting anyone out (of the schools) until we knew there was no residual gas,” he said. “We didn’t evacuate any homes. If there was someone outside we would let them know.”
Campbell said his firefighters entered the scene donned in breathing apparatus. Two members suffered minor burns to the unprotected areas on their foreheads. He said the burns cleared up and the firefighters were back to work the same day.
“Everybody was fine,” Campbell said. “We continued to ventilate the building and that room until we felt it was safe. When ammonia gets in the air it dissipates really well.”
Staff and youngsters from the preschool in the arena took shelter in C. Ian McLaren School until the leak was contained and the gas dissipated.
The all-clear order was given at 1 p.m. and the street reopened.
C. Ian McLaren School Principal Sherry Agasoster-Jones said the 15 to 20 preschoolers joined her school’s Kindergarten class before they were picked up and taken home.
All students remained indoors for morning recess, but by lunch Agasoster-Jones was told it was safe for them to go outside.
“We are back to normal,” she said on Sept. 24. “We didn’t even say to the kids what was going on. We just said we couldn’t go outside.”
Oilfield High School principal Scott Carey said he was informed around noon students and parents could access the north entrance of the building, but the south doors were closed for another hour.
“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 material suits had little affect on students, who were only 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.”
Ammonia gas can cause irritation and burning to the eyes, nose, skin and throat, as well as nausea or even serious burns.