Ice rinks always ready for COmbat

PASCO — The TRAC ice rink has added more precautions to ensure the rink's air quality stays healthy after a case of carbon monoxide poisoning at a Colorado ice rink sickened more than 60 people.

Pasco's TRAC ice arena has had a carbon monoxide detector since it opened 10 years ago.

But Troy Woody, TRAC general manager, said he decided to add four more detectors after hearing about the Colorado incident, even though the current sensor never has gone off.

The Environmental Protection Agency said ice arenas need to use good ventilation practices to protect air quality. Fuel-burning ice resurfacing machines such as Zambonis can release carbon monoxide.

The odorless gas can cause shortness of breath, headaches and nausea, and at higher exposure levels, it can cause more serious symptoms, including loss of consciousness or death.

More than 60 people became ill from carbon monoxide poisoning at a youth hockey tournament in western Colorado on Feb. 6, according to The Associated Press. The ice rink's ventilation system failed and was reusing polluted air instead of bringing in outside air.

The Toyota Arena in Kennewick also has not had any carbon monoxide problems, said Rob Gierke, Toyota Arena manager.

Figure-skater Garri Taylor of Walla Walla said she has not had concerns about air quality since she started skating at the Toyota Arena in 2002.

"I've never, ever worried about anything like that," she said.

Arena staff check air quality daily with a hand-held carbon monoxide analyzer, Gierke said.

The average background level of carbon monoxide in the rink is between 0 and 10 parts per million, Gierke said. If the analyzer ever showed a level of 50 parts per million or more, the rink would take action.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration's permissible exposure limit for carbon monoxide is 50 parts per million over an eight-hour, time-weighted average concentration.

The Toyota Arena's maintenance crew does regular maintenance on the 10-year-old Zamboni that transforms choppy ice to a fresh surface, Gierke said.

The rink staff are well-trained and know how to respond to problems, Gierke said.

Both TRAC and the Toyota Arena have dehumidifier systems that replace indoor air with outdoor air.

TRAC staff essentially rebuild its Zamboni before each hockey season, Woody said. In addition, the staff has tested air quality after the Zamboni has run and found no carbon monoxide, he said.

The TRAC rink is open from September until March and almost exclusively is used for hockey under a rental agreement with the Tri-City Amateur Hockey Association, which also has a weekend public skate session.

Around 60 people use the rink on weekdays, and four times that on a weekend day, Woody said.

Around 200 people might skate at the Toyota Arena on an average weekday, and the number can be closer to 1,000 on a weekend, especially during hockey tournaments, Gierke said.

The rink also is home to the Tri-City Figure Skating Club, public skate sessions, learn-to-skate lessons, an adult skate and youth and adult hockey.

* Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com