Gas leak at community health centre under investigation

Investigators are looking into the cause of a gas leak at the Bremner Avenue Community Health Centre Thursday morning.

Red Deer Emergency Services Platoon Chief Chuck Ruether says crews responded shortly after 7:00 a.m. to reports of a gas odour in the building.

“(It) was reported by two people who were in the building that there was a strange odour,” he explains.

“When crews arrived, they got an initial reading of 300 parts per million (ppm), and then as they further assessed the level of CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) – the highest reading recorded was 1,200 ppm.”

Ruether says 1,200 ppm is a significant release of CO2.

“Usually we’re focused on whether it’s coming from the heating system, there’s two boilers in this building,” adds Ruether. “We shut the gas off immediately. There were no other people in the building, the two people that were in the building (were) evacuated.”

Ruether says the source of the leak was likely from one of the boilers or the building’s ventilation system.

“Our main focus from then on was ventilating the building and getting rid of that CO2 inside the building,” he explains. “ATCO Gas, now building maintenance, and we have a lead engineer on scene, and they are working with ATCO Gas to try to identify the problem as to what caused the CO2 build-up in the building.”

Ruether says there is only a negligible amount of CO2, like 0.12 ppm that can normally be found inside a building or residence.

“Maybe more if people are smoking,” says Ruether. “Then you might get 70 ppm in an environment where people are smoking. But once we get limits of 100 ppm of CO2, that really causes us concern because that’s significant already and sickness already starts establishing at that point.”

In extreme cold situations, Ruether says it’s important to remember that heating systems are under a lot of pressure.

“With cold temperatures, sometimes the venting for these heating systems becomes clogged with frost build-up,” explains Ruether. “A reminder to people is to just make sure that their vents going into the house, fresh air vent – is clear of debris and make sure that there’s no buildup of snow. Fresh air entering the building is very important and chimneys on top sometimes can also become obstructed, so people just have to be aware of their heating system and make sure that the venting is clear and free.”

Staff at the Bremner Avenue Community Health Centre were allowed back into the building around 9:20 a.m.