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An ounce of prevention is worth a lot of pounds of R-22

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opinion Cloquet, 55720
Cloquet Minnesota 122 Avenue C 55720

The sky isn’t falling but the ozone layer got a little thinner this month, when the Proctor ice arena lost the bulk of its R-22 refrigerant because of a leak.

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For Proctor, that means its association will have to find funds to repair the leak and replace up to 800 pounds of the R-22, a substance known to cause damage to the ozone layer and which won’t be available for purchase in the United States after 2020, thanks to the Clean Air Act.

All we can say is thank goodness it wasn’t Cloquet, which — because it has a direct system which sends the refrigerant out under the ice sheet instead of keeping it contained in the mechanical room to cool something else — would be looking at a loss of closer to 6,000 pounds if there were a leak.

No. 1, that’s a lot of potential damage to the environment.

No. 2, with the price of R-22 at about $10 to $12 a pound (up from 50 to 75 cents in 1993), that’s also a lot of money to replace. Proctor’s $8,000 to $10,400 looks like chump change compared to Cloquet’s potential replacement costs of $60,000 to $72,000.

We’d like to suggest Cloquet — maybe with some of the city’s local sales tax dollars — invest in some quality leak detectors for both Northwoods Credit Union Arena and the Pine Valley Arena, as soon as possible. As owner of both facilities, it would behoove the city to act quickly.

Those leak detectors could buy our hockey gurus some time, while they figure out what to do about the ice plants at both arenas, which are nearing (or in the case of Pine Valley, have passed) their life expectancy.

Proctor didn’t have a leak detection system. Neither does Cloquet.

A leak detection system could easily pay for itself as the cost of R-22 continues to climb over the next six years, until the Environmental Protection Agency eliminates its production altogether.

A leak detection system could give Cloquet time to investigate alternatives to R-22 that might not entail what is basically a complete remodel of the ice making plants, including ripping up the arena floor.

And, finally, a leak detection system might give legislators time to realize that if they want Minnesota to continue to be one of the most democratic states of hockey in the country, they’d better find a way to help small communities meet the federally imposed standards for ice arenas.

Perhaps they will listen to state Sen. Jim Metzen and others, who are pushing for $8 million in bonding bill money for the Amateur Sports Commission to provide “Mighty Ducks” grants to communities for arena updates.

Because Cloquet isn’t alone. The ice arenas in Carlton and Moose Lake face the same issues as Cloquet. So do many other arenas in towns, both small and large, across the state … a total of 120, to be precise.

We’d like to suggest those towns invest in leak detection systems too. Immediately.

For the sake of the environment — which affects everyone.

Jana Peterson

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