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Carbon monoxide scare clears rink

Old Zamboni, due for replacement, was source of toxic gas during youth hockey game

TUPPER LAKE — Young hockey players, parents and coaches evacuated the Tupper Lake Civic Center in the second period of a game between Tupper Lake and Star Lake Saturday, due to elevated carbon monoxide levels on the ice. The rink’s backup Zamboni later proved to be the culprit.

The Civic Center is owned and run by the Tupper Lake Central School District. Superintendent Seth McGowan said Monday that the people inside the building were never in any danger because the levels were so low. He said the evacuation was a precautionary measure.

District Business Administrator Daniel Bower said no one was injured due to carbon monoxide exposure but that several people were inspected on site by the Tupper Lake rescue squad and volunteer fire department.

“Some people, I think, went right over to the Saranac Lake emergency room because they wanted to be tested,” Bower said.

Bower said another ice resurfacing machine will be on loan from the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, starting Wednesday. Therefore, the rink should be smooth and open in time for the Empire State Winter Games, for which the Tupper Lake rink will host 14 girls hockey games throughout the Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 weekend.

Civic Center director Jon Kopp Jr. saw the supervisory alarm go off during the game Saturday. He called 911, and the inhabitants of the building were evacuated to the Emergency Services Building, around 300 feet away from the Civic Center. The Tupper Lake Volunteer Fire Department, which is housed in the Emergency Services Building, responded with carbon monoxide meters to take readings.

Bower said he was told the meters showed the air to have 10 parts per million of carbon monoxide in the atrium. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s standard to evacuate a location is an average of 50 ppm within an eight-hour period.

However, Bower said the lowest levels were in the atrium; they were higher in the stands and highest on the ice. He could not recall how high those levels were. Members of the TLVFD referred questions to Chief Royce Cole, who could not be reached for comment by press time.

By Sunday, Bower said the carbon monoxide levels were back at zero and stayed that way until the evening.

Bower said the situation was handled calmly and seriously, and that emergency medical services personnel tested everyone who wanted to be tested.

“The EMTs were great,” Bower said.

Old Zamboni

Bower said a group returned on Sunday with meters to determine the source of the gas. With people holding meters in the bleachers, they drove the backup Zamboni, a 1972 model, by and saw the levels spike.

Bower said the rink had been using that machine while its 2004 model is out of service for an idling issue. He said though the 1972 model runs well otherwise, it is now being decommissioned.

The school district budget, passed in May, includes funding for a new Zamboni, which at the time was estimated as costing a maximum of $120,000. Bower said that new model is still being manufactured and that the company told the district last week it may be ready in March.

For the time being, ORDA is helping the rink out with a Zamboni.

“ORDA is good to us,” Bower said.

He said the rink should be ready to reopen Tuesday morning — pending approval from the fire department and code enforcement officer. The ice will get roughed up that day, and on Wednesday the loaned Zamboni should arrive to smooth it back out.

Bower said he is happy the cause was not the humidification or heating systems, which both run on propane.

“We’re glad that we got it narrowed down,” Bower said.

McGowan said he is considering the whole event to be a sort of “drill,” testing some of the Civic Center’s emergency measures.

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