The AV Multiplex in Port Alberni. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

Alberni Valley Multiplex closure enters third week

Bureaucratic red tape now keeping the ice plant off and doors closed, say city officials

Bureaucratic red tape is keeping the Alberni Valley Multiplex closed for a third week, after Technical Safety BC refused to approve an inspection without more information.

“We had the impression that this would be resolved quickly to the satisfaction of Technical Safety BC, but they have now raised additional questions,” City of Port Alberni CAO Tim Pley said in a statement released late Friday night (Nov. 15). “Therefore, for planning and safety purposes, the Multiplex will remain closed while the city continues to work with Technical Safety BC and the manufacturer to address the new requirements.”

The Multiplex has been shut down since Nov. 3 when a low-pressure ammonia leak was detected in the compressor room of the facility. City officials discovered a small amount of ammonia vapour was leaking from a crack in a weld of the new ice refrigeration plant that had been installed in April. The original crack was repaired, and further testing revealed a total of nine cracks or fissures in the original weld.

Geo Tech Industries repaired the cracks with the guidance of metallurgic engineers from Acuren Industrial Services and with the support and agreement of Accent Refrigeration, which originally installed the ice plant, and Isotherm Inc., the manufacturer.

All parties concurred that the faulty weld was a manufacturing failure, according to the city.

“City staff and elected officials are passionate about the programs and services the city provides and are disappointed that the closure continues to affect these programs and services,” Pley said. “We regret the impact this is having on our user groups.”

Technical Safety BC now requires the city to prove the refrigeration plant has been shut down; provide a documented procedure for monitoring the plant while it’s not in operation; and requires the manufacturer to provide a “fit-for-service” assessment that takes into consideration the integrity of the entire ice plant unit.

Technical Safety BC will not permit the city to turn on the ice plant and reopen the Multiplex until these conditions are met, Pley said.

Laura McLeod, a spokesperson with Technical Safety BC, said in a prepared statement that TSBC wants to ensure the refrigeration unit is repaired in compliance with applicable industry codes and standards, “inspected by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and declared safe to be put back into service.

“Technical Safety BC has reasonable cause to believe these cracks could be indicative of systemic manufacturing problems and have opted to take this vessel out of service until it can be recertified by a professional engineer.”

The TSBC statement said the timeline for work to be completed “is dependent on the contractors and the manufacturer.

“We understand the impact a rink closure like this can have on a small community and are sympathetic to those who have been affected, including sports teams that have had to reschedule tournaments. However, public safety is our top priority.

“An ammonia leak from refrigeration systems has the potential to cause injury or even death to employees, emergency response personnel, members of the public using the facilities, and those living in the nearby area. We saw this with the fatal Fernie ammonia release that killed three people, and we feel it is essential to take all precautions to prevent a similar incident from happening again.”

The closure has affected minor hockey, figure skating, adult hockey programs and the Alberni Valley Bulldogs of the BC Hockey League. The Bulldogs postponed a home game Nov. 15 that should have been family night with players’ families travelling into Port Alberni for the weekend.

The Bulldogs will be playing their Sunday game against Trail Smoke Eaters in Campbell River at the Rod Brind’Amour Arena (starting at 2 p.m.). Bulldogs’ president David Michaud explained in a press release that due to Trail’s schedule, it would not be possible for them to return to Port Alberni later in the season.

“We’re extremely disappointed to be in this position,” Michaud said.

With no ice in the Multiplex, the status of the Bulldogs’ home game against Prince George Spruce Kings on Tuesday, Nov. 19 is up in the air.

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