Feb 17, 2012 11:21 PM by Andy Koen

Bad air on ice: How local arenas control Zamboni fumes

Last year at the Gunnison Ice Rink, 61 people were sickened by carbon monoxide poisoning. The source of the pollution was traced to the ice resurfacing machine.

It would seem absurd to operate a car inside a closed building, but an equivalent amount of exhaust is produced indoors every day at ice arenas around the country by gas powered resurfacers.

News 5 wanted to see what safety measures are used at our local public ice arenas to keep the air inside safe.

The Zamboni ice resurfacers at Sertich Ice Arena in Colorado Springs run on propane. Recreation Supervisor John Carricato explains that propane gives off the least amount of pollutants when compared to natural gas or gasoline.

The arena's Zamboni operators are also required follow strict air quality procedures. A meter in the Zamboni bay measures the exhaust made by the machine prior to each use. Carricato says the machines are regularly maintained by the City Fleet Division and the arena's ventilation system is routinely inspected by workers from El Paso County.

"It's a collaborative effort among all of us to make sure that the ice rink, the air quality is where it need to be so that are customers are safe in the building," Carricato said.

Finally, they never run the machines without first opening a large bay door that allows fresh air inside.

At the Pueblo Ice Arena, all of their ice maintenance equipment is electric. In fact, facility manager Harvey Norris says the arena has been using electric powered equipment for nearly 20 years.

"I was seeing things at that particular time that showed, even way back then in '93 that emissions were bad for in enclosed buildings and ice rinks.," Norris said.

One major difference is cost. Norris says electric machine run between $10,000 and $20,000 more than gas powered machines. The battery cache also need to be replaced every 4 to 5 years.

But Norris thinks the main reason they aren't more widely used is due to durability. The batteries in the electric machines can't hold a charge long enough to keep up with the demand a larger facility like the Ice Hall or World Arena.

"They're great machines," he said. "Their only downfall that I know of is lots of ice maintenance."

That said, Norris believes that combination of gas and electric machines could greatly improve the air quality at any arena. He would run gas powered resurfacers prior to an event when the building is empty more power is needed. The electric machines could then maintain the ice during the event while the crowd is inside.
There has never been a carbon monoxide poisoning incident at either ice arena. There are also currently no indoor air quality standards established by law in Colorado. Only three states, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Maine have such regulations on the books.


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