The SASCU Indoor Memorial Arena has been closed indefinitely due to exposed asbestos.
The complete closure of the building took place March 22 after Interior Health reviewed the situation with the executive of the Salmon Arm and Shuswap Lake Agricultural Association, who own and operate the facility. The association is also commonly known as the Fall Fair association.
Colleen Ingram, the association’s administrator, says the situation began a few weeks ago when one of the tenants using the building went into a storage room and noticed material on the floor that was suspected to be asbestos.
The tenant reported this to the association and the grounds manager had the substance tested. Ingram says the samples came back positive for asbestos approximately two weeks ago.
Health Canada states breathing in asbestos fibres can cause cancer and other respiratory diseases.
At that point, the association contacted a restoration company and taped off affected areas with plastic. For part of that time, tenants continued to use the facility.
But following consultation with Interior Health this week, the indoor arena building is now closed to public access and all the user groups, including spring break soccer camps, had to be re-located.
“While the association was already moving to take appropriate action, we advised them it was best to not use the facility at all. From our point of view, we want to do everything possible to minimize the risk of exposure to the public,” says Juliana Gola team leader with Interior Health’s environmental health program.
Gola says Interior Health received information about the positive test for asbestos from a member of the public and followed it up. She says the association was already letting user groups know of the situation and was taking the appropriate steps.
A meeting with the restoration company assessing the situation was set to take place Wednesday.
“We are awaiting a meeting with the restoration company who is going to come up with a remediation plan. Once we have that, then we will have a better idea of what we need to do,” says Ingram. “At this point we have no idea when we can reopen.”
Ingram says the timing is somewhat fortunate, as many of the user groups would be moving to outdoor fields, but there is concern about how long repairs might take.
“We do have some time before the fair would be an issue, but we have to wait until we have a plan to go forward,” says Ingram.
Gola says once the remediation work is complete, Interior Health will follow up to ensure the building is safe for public use.
The Salmon Arm and Shuswap Lake Agricultural Association purchased the building from the city of Salmon Arm some years ago and operates it for use during the annual Fall Fair, as well as leasing it for other events and activities.
A number of youth and adult soccer groups, as well as archery, make use of the facility on a regular basis.
Shuswap Youth Soccer has worked with the school district to make arrangements for the use of the lower fields near the new district education support centre for their soccer camps, which feature elite, out-of-town coaches for 76 local players.
Kevin Harrison, executive director of Shuswap Youth Soccer, says their group has also cancelled all soccer practices for next week and will be working to reschedule all events planned for the indoor facility.
“Until the board is 100 per cent convinced there is zero risk of hazardous exposure to our children we will not be entering the building,” he said.
Star McGregor, secretary with the association, says remediation work was done on asbestos that was discovered when the association renovated its office area some years ago. She says further deterioration in some of the cinder blocks in the building appears to have exposed further areas of the toxic substance.