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October 31, 2011 09:55 PM

Ice & Rec's Emission Mission

Sioux Falls, SD

The return of skaters to the Sioux Falls Ice and Rec Center has the city keeping closer tabs on the air quality.
That's because in May, several youth hockey players became sick from exposure to carbon monoxide inside the building. Since then, the city has upgraded the building's ventilation system and repaired a faulty carburetor on the rink's Zamboni.

Back February, three months before the players got sick, KELOLAND News tested for carbon monoxide inside Ice and Rec and found some higher than expected levels. We went back inside the building again, to see if the recent improvements have made a difference.

If there's a trace of the dangerous gas carbon monoxide inside a building, Andy Wall with Sioux Falls Fire Rescue will find it.

"Right now, our monitor is showing just one part per million carbon monoxide," Wall said.

Wall's hand-held carbon monoxide detector is checking the levels inside the Sioux Falls Ice and Rec Center.

"It could be different in different parts of the building," Wall said.

It's been more than 12 hours since the Zamboni ice-grooming vehicle made a pass over the rink, so the levels should be low, and they are.

"On the lower left, it changed to two," Wall said.

It read just two parts per million.  That's quite a difference from our test back in February when our pre-ice grooming level peaked at 20 parts per million, more than halfway toward the danger zone.

"This monitor will alarm at 35 parts per million," Wall said.

Next, we sent the Zamboni onto the ice to see how much the carbon monoxide level would rise.

"It's real sensitive, so it will change if it's higher," Wall said.

The Ice & Rec's Zamboni runs on propane, which burns cleaner than gasoline, but still puts out carbon monoxide. Back in February, immediately following the Zamboni's run on the rink, we found the carbon monoxide level peaking at 62 parts per million. Federal OSHA standards limit carbon monoxide emissions to 50 parts per million over an eight-hour period. So what did we find with our latest test?

"Four," Perry said.

That's right. Our readings topped out at just four parts per million. And then the level quickly dropped from there.

Wall: Back down to three.
Perry Groten: What does that tell you?
Wall: Now back down to two. These are all low levels. Those are all fairly minor changes.

These single-digit readings are about what you'd expect to find around your home.

"I would guess that probably with your furnace running in your house that you're probably at four, or even higher," Sioux Falls Parks & Rec Assistant Director Dave Fischer said.

Sioux Falls Parks and Rec credits the lower levels to changes made in the aftermath of the youth hockey players' exposure to carbon monoxide this spring.

"Creating a safe facility is something that was paramount in this whole thing and I think we've gotten there," Fischer said.

Five sensors have been placed throughout the building and will automatically trip the ventilation system if carbon monoxide levels get too high.

"It kind of takes the human component out of it a little bit and we're glad for that. We've had a chance to test it and it's working and so we feel real good about where we're at," Fischer said.

Carbon monoxide levels are also logged into a computer each time the Zamboni shaves the ice.

"Typically, once they get done Zamboniing, what we've seen is single-digits or the very low teens for readings.  So again, I think the system is working," Fischer said.

And Fischer is confident the carbon monoxide levels will remain low when the Zamboni takes more passes over the ice as more people use the building this winter. The city hopes a mixture of monitors and mechanics will exhaust all efforts to keep skaters safe.

All the upgrades to Ice and Rec cost the city around $8,000. Crews will also check the emissions of the Zamboni once a month, to see that it's running properly.


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