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Faulty valve causes ammonia leak at P.E.I. sports arena

Three workers checked at hospital


(Canadian OH&S News) — Three employees of a sports facility in the community of Pownal, P.E.I. were treated at a local hospital and released, following an ammonia leak that occurred on the morning of April 10.

Pownal Sports Centre employee Dave McDougall was working on a valve in the building when it failed and released the gas, according to Ronnie Drake, a part-time worker at the facility.

“I was here at the time,” Drake told COHSN. “It’s a normal procedure that he does all the time: he drains up oil off the ammonia, and anyhow, in doing so, the valve that he was using, it’s under pressure. He just lets the valve go very lightly, and that valve was defaulted.”

Although McDougall was already wearing respiratory protection at the time, he had to put on a Scott air pack as well before closing the valve, added Drake.

“And Dave, he was saying, ‘I’ve never seen a valve do that before,’” he said.

The Cross Roads Fire Department in nearby Stratford reportedly attended the scene of the incident, as did the hazardous-materials team from the provincial Department of Communities, Land and Environment.

“Following an investigation, it was determined the leak was the result of a mechanical failure of the oil-drain valve,” said Amber Nicholson, a senior communications officer with the Department, in an e-mailed reply. “A comprehensive review of the maintenance procedures for servicing the ammonia refrigeration system is currently underway.”

Cross Roads did not respond to COHSN’s request for comment.

McDougall, Drake and a third employee were treated and observed for possible side effects at the hospital for three hours. Drake had inhaled some ammonia, while McDougall had sustained skin and breathing irritation.

“He was a little hoarse, and I think he had a burn on his left leg, from the ammonia,” said Drake, regarding McDougall. “He had to have Band-Aids on it. He had a couple of blisters.”

All three employees have since returned to work at the Sports Centre.

A leak like this one had never happened at the facility before, according to Drake.

“Just a freak accident type of thing,” he described it. “The refrigeration guy was here, and he mentioned to the board inspector, he said he’d never seen that happen before, valves do that.

“When they tested the valve, that’s when they found it wasn’t anything that happened. It was just a faulty valve.”

The Pownal Sports Centre includes a stadium and an indoor ice arena, according to its website. The facility opened in 2004.

Pownal is a small community in the municipality of Alexandra, about 8.5 kilometres southeast of Charlottetown.