Ammonia leak caught early in Smithers Arena

A hand is holding a small vial with a green liquid inside of it comparing the colour to a colour-coded paper litmus test in order to determine if ammonia is detected.
Smithers Arena recently experienced an ammonia leak. Photo courtesy of
Pamela Haasen - CICK - SmithersBC | 26-01-2021
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Typically, news of an ammonia leak means injury, sickness, and in the worst cases, death. CICK News learned about a recent ammonia leak at the Smithers Arena and has been seeking further public information on the incident.

No reports were made public and the largest mention was on Mayor Gladys Atrill's Facebook town council notes post from Jan. 13.

Ammonia leaks in arenas across British Columbia have been a rising concern for municipalities and the memory of the tragic Fernie ammonia leak in 2017 and the near-fatal leak in Prince Rupert in 2018 remain too recent to not draw similarities when news of an ammonia leak is found.

In Smithers, last December, an ammonia leak was detected when workers at the arena thought they could smell the gas in the cooling facility. A paper litmus test was done and, in fact, ammonia was leaking from the facility.

The facility was shut down and the employees that were in the building evacuated immediately.

"We couldn't pinpoint exactly where it was [...] the facility was shut down and our contractor that we brought in discovered that it was the gaskets inside the ammonia chiller were damaged, or at end of life," according to Rob Blackburn, manager of Infrastructure and Facilities for the Town of Smithers.

The gaskets were six years old and deemed to normally last ten years. Blackburn asked the contractor why the gaskets met their end of life four years earlier than expected, but the answer has been inconclusive.

Atrill, Smithers' mayor, said that a report was sent to Technical Safety BC. CICK News has requested a copy of that report.

Tune in to CICK News for the full story and listen to a short clip of Rob Blackburn speaking about the ammonia leak in the Smithers Arena below.