Cooling system can be fixed at damaged Norwich ice rink

Norwich - The Norwich Municipal Ice Rink won't reopen by the March 7 target date, but officials got some good news when refrigeration company crews determined the damaged existing cooling system could be repaired, avoiding the need to rent a temporary system.

Rink Authority Chairman Francois "Pete" Desaulniers started this week hoping the rink could reopen early, in time to salvage a youth hockey tournament this weekend. But he learned Tuesday that while the existing system is being repaired, crews need time to cool the rink floor before making new ice.

"I can't take a chance of ruining the floor in the rink," Desaulniers said.

According to rink Manager Mia Sanca in a letter to the authority Tuesday, the repaired compressors will come back online Friday, and the rink should be ready to "build ice" by late Sunday. It will take four days to paint the floor and make ice, so the rink should be ready later next week.

The rink was forced to close Feb. 13 after the compressor system malfunctioned and shut down and an ammonia leak forced evacuation of the building.

Desaulniers said he doesn't yet have the exact cost of the repairs, but it will be approximately $50,000. Crews from National Refrigeration Service Group Inc. of Milford worked on the system over the weekend and this week.

The rink authority had planned to rent a temporary cooling unit from the Carrier Co. for $14,000 per month, but Desaulniers said the quick repair made more sense, avoiding the rental cost.

A report from the company said several leaking tubes were welded and repaired and the compressor system was pressurized.

"We cannot guarantee that the chiller will not develop additional leaks in the future, and the steps taken to return the chiller to service are strictly temporary," the company report said.

The rink authority last week voted to seek bid proposals for a new cooling system for the rink. Desaulniers said he will meet today with city Purchasing Agent William Block and Norwich Public Utilities officials to write the specifications for the bid.

National Refrigeration officials have recommended: conducting daily tests of pH levels in the brine used in the compressor system and weekly samples tested at a lab for ammonia levels; replacing the ammonia detector with one that would sound the alarm in the public areas of the rink; installing an auto-alert system that would send a signal to emergency responders if ammonia levels reached a certain point; and placing a large exhaust fan in the compressor room to allow emergency responders to enter the room.

c.bessette@theday.com

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