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Saskatchewan arena closes after safety inspections, tests

Black mould and wood rot found at Main Arena


(Canadian OH&S News) — The City of Melfort, Saskatchewan has shut down its Main Arena indefinitely, based on concerns that deterioration of the roof structure and the indoor air quality are potential dangers to employees and others.

Following a visitor complaint about the smell inside the 83-year-old arena, the city’s building official inspected the facility at the end of summer, according to Teri Scaife, the city’s director of community services. “There was disintegration and deterioration of the roof structure, due to water leaking, as well as black mould,” Scaife said. “That deteriorated some of the mechanical aspects of the rink.”

An examination by the local public health inspector took place on Sept. 18, followed by an air quality test four days later. The test “did come back positive with residue of black mould as well as wood rot,” Scaife said, adding that many of the outer walls of the building tested positive for asbestos content.

After a meeting with the city’s Occupational Health and Safety Committee, which verified the reports by the building official and the health inspector, Melfort’s Council of the Whole Committee voted on Sept. 24 to close the arena due to safety concerns. “With the past two winters that we’ve had, with the amount of snow,” said Scaife, “the roof could have collapsed.”

The city has also been mulling over whether to repair and reopen the facility or to close it permanently and move ahead with plans for a new arena. According to the city’s website, it would cost about $31,250 just to remediate the building from black mould and asbestos. The cost to fix the arena fully, Scaife said, would be roughly half a million dollars. “So it’d be easier for us,” she explained, “being more sufficient and taxpayer friendly to build a new facility than putting more money into the old one.”

Since the closure, the city has been working to reschedule Main Arena user groups to Melfort’s other facility, the Northern Lights Palace. Other arenas in outer municipal areas are being considered and contacted to accommodate users.

Constructed in 1931, the Main Arena has hosted hockey and figure skating events every winter. The building was partially renovated and repainted in 2007, during which it was determined to have at least 15 more years of life expectancy.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) notes on its website that mould in buildings often results from excessive moisture, which causes it to grow. Mould in the air can lead to health problems in some people, from exacerbating allergies or asthma to causing nasal congestion, coughing, eye irritation or fatigue.

According to the CCOHS, keeping the relative humidity between 30 and 50 per cent can help prevent mould contamination. Among the ways to do so:

* Using air conditioners and/or dehumidifiers to control humidity;

* Using exhaust fans for cooking, washing dishes or clothes and cleaning large spaces;

* Venting showers and any other sources of moisture to the outdoors;

* Cleaning all floods and spills as soon as possible;

* Avoiding installation of carpets around sinks or showers, as well as over floors that are prone to leaks or condensation; and

* Cleaning stains from floors and carpets immediately, with no more water than necessary.