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Recommended by a stakeholder group including the League, the new rules contain updated definitions and improved safety measures.
(Published Sep 6, 2012)
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) gave notice on Aug. 29 that the agency intends to adopt revised rules pertaining to air quality in two types of facilities: indoor ice arenas and motorsports facilities (Minnesota Rules, Chapter 4620, parts 3900 to 5950, which will be published in the Minnesota State Register on Sept. 10).
Although the drafts of the rules were released simultaneously, they were developed by two separate working groups, one with ice arena stakeholders and another with motorsports facilities stakeholders. This article will focus on rule changes pertaining to indoor ice facilities.
Cities that operate indoor ice arenas should make sure facility managers are aware of the changes. Note that many of the changes apply specifically to those facilities that use ice maintenance equipment powered by internal combustible engines and do not apply to facilities using electric ice resurfacers and edgers. The new rules will go into effect at an exact date that will be determined by whether a public hearing is necessary.
In short, the updated rules contain:
The modified rules do not require upgrades to electric resurfacing equipment, nor do they require installation of new air exchange technology.
Why are the rules being modified?
Prompted by claims that in spite of existing rules, athletes and spectators inside indoor ice arenas face health risks from exposure to carbon monoxide generated by ice resurfacing equipment, safety advocates initiated legislation in 2009 that would have banned equipment with combustible engines and forced facility owners to install expensive air exchange and monitoring systems.
Opponents of the legislation, including the League and facility managers, testified that the vast majority of indoor ice facilities exceed standards for indoor air quality compliance. They also emphasized that the proposed legislation would be structurally and financially unworkable for a significant number of facilities. Although the legislation was not enacted, it raised awareness of the need to ensure the safety of arena users.
Coinciding with the legislative debate was an MDH announcement that the agency would commence a process to revise rules pertaining to air quality in ice arena facilities as well as enclosed motorsports arenas. MDH regulates air quality in Minnesota’s enclosed sports arenas by requiring the responsible person to monitor for carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, which are by-products of combustion engines.
Some background on ice arena air quality rules
According to MDH, Minnesota was the first state to pass rules to protect individuals from exposures to exhaust emissions that can occur in ice arenas. Minnesota promulgated an ice arena rule in 1973 after carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide emitted from a resurfacing machine caused illness in spectators and hockey players. In 1977, the rule was amended to regulate all enclosed sports arenas when any type of internal combustion engine is in use.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas often formed in the process of incomplete combustion of organic substances, including fuels. It is dangerous because it interferes with normal oxygen uptake for humans and other living organisms needing oxygen to live. Arenas are required to keep concentrations of carbon monoxide at or below 30 parts per million (ppm) in the air.
Nitrogen dioxide is a highly reactive oxidant and corrosive gas. It is formed as a by-product of combustion. Exposure to nitrogen dioxide can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, lungs, and lower resistance to respiratory infections. People with existing respiratory illness such as asthma are at increased risk for these health effects. Arenas are required to keep concentrations of nitrogen dioxide at or below 0.5 ppm in the air.
Under current law, owners and operators of enclosed sports arenas must follow Minnesota Rules, Chapter 4620, parts 4620.3900 to 4620.4900. The rule requires that facilities be certified by the MDH and that air quality is maintained in these arenas as demonstrated by weekly air monitoring.
Contact Anne Finn
Assistant IGR Director
(651) 281-1263 or (800) 925-1122