Ammonia levels safe in Nova Scotia, rink managers say

Rink operators in Halifax say they are surprised by the reports out of Vancouver about an ammonia leak that severely injured a former figure skating champion, but reassure skaters that the toxic chemical is regulated in Nova Scotia.

Karen Magnussen says inhaling the chemical at an unsafe rink ended her coaching career

A facilities manager for the Halifax region says the handling of ammonia leaks at rinks in Nova Scotia is highly regulated in order to prevent injuries. (CBC)

Rink operators in Halifax say they are surprised by the reports out of Vancouver about an ammonia leak that severely injured a former figure skating champion, but reassure skaters the toxic chemical is regulated in Nova Scotia.

Operators said ammonia is highly regulated in Nova Scotia and there are several layers of safety measures.

Ammonia is used in the refrigeration systems of many ice rinks. It's highly toxic if inhaled.

A leak at a private skating club in North Vancouver ended the coaching career of Karen Magnussen​. The retired world figure-skating champion and Olympic silver medallist said she can now barely breathe. 

The effects of the Vancouver incident appear severe, but it's not an isolated event.

Since July there have been at least four ammonia leaks at rinks across Canada including one in Charlottetown at the end of November.

All refrigeration systems in Nova Scotia are certified by the province, which does an inspection every year.

"The ammonia room, it's a room on to its own. [It], is locked and there are no unauthorized personnel allowed," said Diane Moulton, HRM's facilities manager.

The four rinks owned and operated directly by the Halifax region have automatic systems that kick in if there are problems.

“Any leak at all will set off the alarm. It's remarkably sensitive,” said Max Chauvin, the general manager of the Dartmouth Sportsplex.

He added that the engineers have special training and the rink’s staff is trained to evacuate the area if an ammonia detection alarm goes off.

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