Ammonia at Parmalat factory not a concern to Concordia university

After deadly leak in British Columbia arena, Loyola assures no risk at Ed Meagher arena

Three arena workers in Fernie, B.C., died after being exposed to ammonia following a leak in October. Ammonia is “very toxic” and “fatal if inhaled,” according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

As for Concordia’s Ed Meagher Arena, the last ammonia leak dates back to 2005. It was during the month of October, in one of Paul Donovan’s first years as president of Loyola High School.

The leak happened one morning while Donovan and his administrative team—the two vice-principals of academics and the vice-principal of discipline—were across the street at Second Cup, according to a 2014 article in Loyola Today.

Since Loyola High School is located beside the arena, the building was evacuated and students were moved to the nearby St-Ignatius of Loyola Church, with the help of Donovan and his colleagues.

Heather Dubee, the Loyola High School director of communications, confirmed there hasn’t been an ammonia leak at the arena since 2005. According to the school’s building manager, the chemical is no longer used, although there’s still ammonia down the street.

The Parmalat factory at the intersection of Elmhurst Avenue and St-Jacques Street still uses ammonia to cool their products, according to Anita Jarjour, Parmalat Canada’s director of government and industry relations.

“The safest and most efficient way of cooling dairy products and maintaining temperature is the use [of] an ammonia cooling system,” Jarjour wrote in an email to The Concordian.

Two years ago, an ammonia leak happened at a Parmalat factory in Winchester, Ont., according to CBC News. An investigation by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change was launched at the time. The company told the ministry the leak was an “isolated event” and only a litre of ammonia leaked. Nonetheless, a resident who lived close to the factory told CBC News she “couldn’t breathe [the air].”

According to Jarjour, “it is of utmost importance for [Parmalat] to ensure the safety of the community in which our facility is located as well as the safety of our 360 employees working on site.”

In addition, she explained that Parmalat complies “with all applicable safety regulations and safety measures.”

As a precaution, Dubee said the high school ran an ammonia leak drill last year. “Loyola’s procedure is to ensure that all students, faculty and staff remain indoors and the ventilation system is turned off,” she explained.

According to Concordia University spokesperson Mary-Jo Barr, “a very specific weather pattern would need to occur for there to be a threat to the Loyola campus” if an ammonia leak occurred.  “Concordia’s Loyola campus may be affected, but the risk is very low,” she said.

In the event of a leak, Concordia “would work closely with city officials to ensure all of the appropriate measures were implemented,” Barr said. These measures could involve “keeping faculty, staff and students indoors until the situation is resolved.”

Jarjour confirmed that Parmalat would also work with Montreal city officials in the event of a leak.

“We also collaborate with the city of Montreal’s public safety department to test our external siren if there were to be such an incident,” she said, adding that the next siren test will be on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 2:10 p.m.

Photo by Kirubel Mehari

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