Phil McLachlan/Fernie Free Press

Stetski calls for ammonia phase-out in arenas

Kootenay-Columbia MP rises in the House of Commons to respond to Fernie tragedy.

Kootenay-Columbia MP Wayne Stetski rose in the House of Commons on Monday, calling on the federal government to work with provinces and municipalities to phase out arenas facilities that use ammonia in their ice plants.

Stetski made his statement in response to the tragedy in Fernie, where three people died inside the arena due to an ammonia leak.

Ammonia is used as a liquid in refrigeration systems, but turns into a toxic and odourless gas when released into the air.

Wayne Hornquist and Lloyd Smith, both employees with the City of Fernie, and Jason Podloski, a contractor, were identified as the victims by the BC Coroners Service.

Stetski’s statement noted that there are an estimated 3,700 arenas and curling rinks in Canada and that 65 per cent of them use ammonia as their refrigerant.

“Since 2007, there have been over 50 ammonia leaks in Canada, many resulting in injuries and death,” said Stetski. “Carbon dioxide systems offer a safer and more efficient alternative.”

The ammonia leak was discovered on Tuesday, Oct. 17. An evacuation order for neighbouring properties was issued that displaced over 90 residents, while municipal staff also issued a local state of emergency in response to the crisis.

A date for a community memorial has yet to be announced, but officials are planning something for early November.

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