The Cowichan Community Centre hopes to replace the chiller in its arena next summer. (File photo)

Chiller replacement at Cowichan Community Centre to be considered

Postponed partly due to deaths in Fernie

The delayed replacement of the arena chiller at the Cowichan Community Centre, at a cost of approximately $415,000, could take place next summer.

Jim Wakeham, the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s manager of facilities and transit, said in a report to the CVRD that the chiller, and accompanying components, was originally planned to be replaced this year.

However, due to a number of factors, including that new safety requirements for chillers have been put in place since the incident in Fernie, B.C. in 2017 in which three people died in a chiller-related incident, the replacement was postponed until the summer of 2020.

Two city workers and one contractor were killed after an ammonia leak from the chiller at the Fernie Memorial Arena.


Since then, the industry has been challenged with multiple new safety requirements, imposed by Technical Safety BC and WorkSafe BC, that must be met.

“A number of procedural and some equipment changes have been completed and continue to be modified at all three CVRD arenas to keep up with the new requirements,” Wakeham said.

“There is now a huge amount of work required at various arenas throughout B.C., a limited number of qualified contractors to replace chillers and components, and the work must be completed within a very specific window of time (summer), when the ice plant is not operating.”

Wakeham said another reason for the delay in the replacement of the chiller is that since this project was submitted in January, 2019, as an application to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Grant program for significant grant funding, the CCC wanted to wait until it heard back from the grant program if the application was successful or not before the work could be started.

He said the CCC applied for $245,655 in funding towards the project and the expectation is that the CCC will hear back from the grant program by mid October, the same time it will be reviewing the bid submissions for the installation work.


“If we are successful in receiving grant funds and/or the bid submission amounts are different than our estimate, we will be able to revise the 2020 budget to account for the changes,” Wakeham said.

“Staff are working with a very experienced refrigeration consultant and are in the process of completing the chiller replacement bid package, which we are planning to have out for bid by Sept. 20.”

Wakeham said that in the past few years, the maintenance costs of the existing chiller and accompanying components have been increasing due to the age of the equipment and work required.

“After the ice plant was shut down in the spring of 2019, the chiller had a sizable internal cleaning and refurbishment done by Cimco Refrigeration, and a subsequent detailed inspection by Technical Safety BC and WorkSafe BC,” he said.

“The chiller passed the inspection and the recent ice plant start up for the 2019/20 winter season went smooth and the equipment is operating very well. However, the chiller is near the end of its serviceable life and needs to be replaced.”

The report is expected to be presented at a meeting of the CVRD’s Special Cowichan Community Centre Commission on Sept. 9.

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