New Air Quality Rules for Ice Arenas May Be Imminent
An administrative law judge could soon approve new air quality rules for Minnesota's indoor ice and motor sports arenas, changes which would represent the biggest overhaul to the requirements in 40 years.
"They will be the most stringent and the most strict in the country," Dan Tranter, supervisor of the Indoor Air Unit at the Minnesota Department of Health, said in an interview Thursday.
The department spent three years researching the proposed standards and collecting public comment. Some items were controversial, however, and members of the public requested an administrative law judge to weigh in.
The judge's decision is expected by Jan. 9.
Among the proposed changes:
- Reducing the acceptable levels of carbon monoxide by a third, from 30 parts per million to 20ppm, and the acceptable levels of nitrogen dioxide by 40 percent, from .5 parts per million to .3ppm;
- Require more frequent testing, to two times per week for propane-powered resurfacers (such as a Zamboni) and an additional time per week for gas-powered edgers. Currently testing is only required once a week;
- A staff member, trained in how to take an air quality reading and how to take corrective action, must be on duty when an arena is open to the public; &
- Require annual certification for indoor arenas. Currently certification is only required when ownership or ventilation systems change.
"Our focus really is on protecting public health," Tranter explained. "That's our goal. We want to make sure people are safe."
But former competitive figure skater Linda Davis does not think the proposals will improve safety at all.
"No doubt somebody will die," without even greater air quality standards, Davis said. She says she was forced to quit coaching after contracting carbon monoxide poisoning from hours spent on the ice with dangerous air.
"I thought I was going to die. I was literally dying," Davis recalled.
Davis fought for more stringent requirements during the Health Department's rule-making process and hopes the judge will insist on even greater changes.
"People, parents need to understand the risk of putting their kids on the ice," said Davis.
The Minnesota Ice Arena Managers Association (MIAMA) also worked with the Department of Health to develop the rules and strongly supports the need to improve air quality testing.
However, some of the state's 280 ice arenas may have difficulty meeting the costs of increased testing, training, and bringing its air systems into initial compliance, the association said.
"There will be member arenas that could have a difficult time getting down to the new levels," acknowledged Shayne Ratcliff, arenas manager in Lakeville and a board member of MIAMA.
"It's going to affect every rink different."
The Lakeville Ames Arena is far ahead of even the stricter requirements proposed. Several years ago, Ratcliff explained, Lakeville spent approximately $7,000 for a continuous air monitor, whose sensors are embedded in the side boards at center ice.
A computer tracks the readings and will automatically import fresh air if the levels of dangerous gases exceed set limits.
"It's very slick. That's why we did it," Ratcliff said.
Watch our story above to see the continuous air monitor in action.