Friday, October 07, 2011

Brine Failure at the War Memorial

As you probably heard, the pre-season game last night (10-6-11) was cancelled due to an ice failure at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena in Johnstown, PA.  What a disaster for an Ice Meister! I really feel for the guys there tonight.  It's 3:15 AM and they probably still have not left the building.

Apparently a pipe under the ice carrying chilled brine (salt water solution) burst.  This means the flow is interrupted the the whole ice surface immediately begins to heat up (MELT).  Even worse, the area of the break starts flowing brine freely as it is being pumped through the pipes, causing severe havoc and melting, also damaging the paint, lines, graphics, underneath.

So, the race is on to repair it before the damage gets too bad or before the whole surface melts.  Some local neighborhood rinks actually have sand under the ice and the brine (or a glycol - antifreeze - solution) lines are small diameter, flexible plastic tubing buried in the sand. This is a little easier to repair.  You have to break up a small area of the ice, find the leaking tube, cut it, and splice in a "double-female" barrel adapter, and glue that in place. Then re-bury it in the sand, and try to re-patch the ice surface so it doesn't look too awful (see below).

But big muli-purpose venues have concrete floors (what good would sand be?) with larger diameter metal pipes traversing the surface.  This is much more difficult to repair.  Worst case, you lose the whole ice surface and have to replace it after repairs are made. This is very likely if the leak was bad.  Best case, you break up a section of ice to expose the concrete, then bust up the concrete to get to the burst pipe, being careful not to do further damage to pipes.  Then a plumber, or somebody good at plumbing, has to repair the pipe by replacing the bad section.

A quick fix would be to just pour sand around the area and worry about fixing the concrete in the off season.  Pack in sand, moisten it, and let it freeze.  Or, a quick-setting concrete can be used. Then the ice has to be put back, and look right.

So, just like doing the whole ice, a light layer of water goes down, then the white painted later. This gets tricky, you want to use the paint to HIDE the blemish but it is very difficult to do without actually highlighting the blemish.  Then any color in that area is painted down to try to match what is there. Then the clear coats go on, very carefully to avoid "floating up" the paint.

This continues until it gets level with the regular ice, or near level.  Then the whole general area would be flooded, because the water is always tend to settle in the patched spot. The only way to truly level that off is by shaving with the ice resurfacter.  So, you build up the whole area and then start shaving.

Hopefully they can manage a patch. But I wouldn't be surprised if they lost the whole surface and had to completely re-lay the ice.

Anyone with some inside intel in Johnstown, I would love to hear what they actually do...