Aspen issues notice of safety measures following Gunnison poisoning incident |

Aspen issues notice of safety measures following Gunnison poisoning incident

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – Prompted by a recent carbon-monoxide poisoning accident at a Gunnison ice rink, the city of Aspen recently distributed a press release on safety measures at its recreation facilities.

Aspen Recreation Director Tim Anderson said some patrons of the Aspen Recreation Center expressed concern about whether an incident like the one early this month in Gunnison could occur in Aspen.

At the city-owned indoor ice rink in Gunnison on Feb. 6, a gas-powered Zamboni was the source of carbon monoxide that made more than 60 people ill during a youth hockey tournament. Compounding the problem was the fact that the rink’s ventilation system failed, causing it to recirculate the polluted air, fire department officials in Gunnison said at the time. The 3-year-old rink didn’t have carbon-monoxide detectors.

A similar incident occurred in Greeley in 2009 when more than 30 people at a youth hockey event received medical treatment for exposure to carbon monoxide. The source was said to be the same as in Gunnison – a buildup of exhaust from ice-cleaning equipment.

“Some local people saw [reports of the Gunnison accident] and I started getting phone calls last week from parents and people who come to our ice rinks in Aspen,” Anderson said. “I explained to them the safety features that we have in place and that we have electric Zambonis. If Aspen was not the first, we were one of the first places in the nation to get an electric Zamboni years ago.”

Electric Zambonis are expensive and many towns and cities can’t afford them, he said, so they continue to operate gas- and propane-powered machines.

The safety update released by the city on Feb. 16 goes beyond the issue of Zambonis. At the ARC, Anderson said, liquid bleach has been replaced with solid calcium hypochlorite tablets to eliminate the possibility of a bleach spill in the pool area.

When it is necessary for the Aspen recreation department to use chemical or equipment that potentially could emit fumes, extreme care is taken, according to the city’s press release.

“Staff is trained to use proper protective gear and safety equipment. Freon and ammonia used in the ice facilities have a monitoring system that sounds an alarm if there is a leak,” the release states.

Acids used to balance the pH of pool water are kept in special room with secondary containment vessels to ensure containment in case the containers leak. A two-level ventilation system is used in isolated equipment rooms.

“We were trying to be proactive and get the information out because there was a little bit of panic going on with citizens,” Anderson said of the broad scope of the press release. “We just wanted to let people know in general that we take precautions with all of our facilities.

The city of Aspen operates two ice rinks: the Lewis Ice Arena, which is attached to the ARC; and the Aspen Ice Garden on West Hyman Avenue. The arena is typically where the public goes to ice skate and the garden is primarily a facility for organized hockey games, curling and figure skating.

“Our facilities are safe and we have monitoring systems and we continually check on them to ensure everyone’s safety,” Anderson said.

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