Officials with the Bay Arena were frantically consulting refrigeration experts today (Sept. 18) to try and determine why the facility is having difficulty making ice.
Initially, it was believed that a worrisome water shortage in the Town of Bay Roberts was responsible for the problem. But that's not necessarily the case, arena manager Norm Hill stated.
Bay Arena staff began making ice this week, a week later than originally anticipated because of an ongoing water conservation order. But the compressor kept failing, prompting a precautionary halt to the process.
Hill speculated that the "ice controller" may be the problem, and added, "we're not 100 per cent sure it's because of a lack of water pressure."
Nigel Black, chief administrative officer for the Town of Bay Roberts, noted that despite the historically low water levels, pressure is only down by "a couple of pounds."
However, the water shortage is top-of-mind with Hill and Ed Neill, who chairs the Bay Arena Association.
"If we start making ice and run out of water, we could burn up" the system, Hill said.
It's the first time in the 28-year history of the arena that concerns about water supply has delayed the opening of the facility.
That's largely because the Bay Arena uses what's called a "water-cooled condenser" to make ice. When operating, this system requires about 100 gallons of water per minute, and Hill described this figure as "conservative."
Most other rinks, including the S. W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace, uses an "evaporative condenser," which uses about 80 per cent less water.
The main difference in the two systems is that the water-cooled condenser operates inside the facility, while the condenser plant operates outside.
Bay Arena installed this system about a decade ago because its old system was troublesome, Hill explained.
The cost to revert back to the evaporative system is roughly $50,000, he added.
There's frustration at all levels about the delay in opening the arena, which is considered one of the busiest in the province. But Hill said no one wants to further jeopardize the water system.
"We understand," he said. "We know the town is in dire straits."
The problems at Bay Arena came on the same day that town officials tightened its water conservation measures, prohibiting the non-essential use of water.
The Ultramar station on the Conception Bay Highway was advised to close its car wash for the first time since 2010, when it had to close for nearly all that summer.
Nigel Black said "water levels are as low as they've been in 40 years," a consequence of one of the driest summers in recent memory.
When asked if the town had a plan to deal with the shortage, Black said the key is conservation and infrastructure upgrades.
He said a recent study of the town's water usage indicated that Bay Roberts is well above the provincial average.
"We're using too much," he said. "We're nearly double what we should be based on our population."
He said habits have to change, and efforts to repair leaks in the system have to continue.
As for tapping into another water source, including Spider Pond in Spaniard's Bay, Black said that's hardly feasible.
"There are no easy sources, at least not without a substantial capital investment," he explained
Meanwhile, the best hope is for some sustained rainfall, but Environment Canada is forecasting only sunshine for the rest of the week.