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Operators Face Hurdles in Pool Act Compliance

Washington, DC — Pool operators who have not yet complied with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act say that differences in state and federal laws, as well as a shortage of manufacturer parts to make pools compliant, have hampered their efforts.

However, last month, the Pool Safety Council (PSC) said that pool drain covers complying with the act are available.

“The Pool and Spa Safety Act was a major step in the direction of making our pools safer,” John Procter, PSC spokesperson, said in a statement. “But too many pool owners and operators seem to have thrown their hands in the air, claiming they are unable to meet the law's requirements due to lack of supply. We want to set the record straight — and have found that the equipment needed for most pools to comply with the Pool and Spa Safety Act is available today.”

The PSC Web site includes a list of parts available from manufacturers with estimated wait times for delivery.

The federal act, which went into effect in December, requires pools to be equipped with drain covers certified to comply with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers/American National Standards Institute 2007 standard. The act applies to all public pools and spas, including those at health clubs, YMCAs, community parks, hotels, universities, schools, apartments and condominiums.

Despite the PSC findings, YMCA facilities nationwide are experiencing difficulties with order backups on compliant drain covers and finding qualified contractors to install them, says Mamie Moore, national spokesperson for the YMCA, though she adds that many Ys already are in compliance with the act.

The act caused the closure of the pool at Baylor University's McLane Student Life Center on Dec. 19, according to the student newspaper, The Lariat. Ben Robert, coordinator for Aquatics and Safety Education at Baylor, told the newspaper that the limited number of manufacturers who make the approved drain had an overload of orders. The university is supposed to get its drains this month, he says.

Administrators at the Shelbyville Recreation Center in Shelbyville, TN, closed the facility's indoor lap pool in December because it wasn't compliant, according to the Times-Gazette. Parts to make that pool and the facility's outdoor pool compliant have been ordered, but city manager Ed Craig told the city council last month that they have not yet arrived. He estimated that the cost to retrofit the pools would be close to $20,000.

Availability of drains and parts wasn't the only holdup for some pool operators. Clemente Rivera, regional pool manager for New York Sports Clubs, must make his company's pools compliant across four states that have regulations different from the federal act. In early February, Rivera still had six swimming pools without main drains because they needed custom anti-entrapment devices. The manufacturer of the devices has told him they will arrive this month.

As long as Rivera is able to show evidence from the manufacturer that the new covers are on order, with their shipping date, the pools are allowed to stay open, he says.

Rivera also says that New York, which has more stringent standards than the other three states, requires that a licensed electrician install new vacuum release systems, which has increased the compliance cost. He estimated the cost for an electrician to install new vacuum release devices and have them underwritten is about $2,500 per pump. To further complicate matters, Nassau County, NY (Long Island), requires a $100 fee to certify compliance with the act, he says.

Last month, two municipal pools near Daytona Beach, FL, were closed so they could be brought into compliance with the Pool and Spa Safety Act. Those two closings were the first in Florida, according to Jennifer Hatfield, director of government and public affairs for the Florida Swimming Pool Association.

Hatfield has not heard of any fines being levied by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which is charged with regulating compliance and fining violators.

“I haven't heard much about the CPSC fining anybody. They recognize the fact that the covers weren't available until now and that it's been very difficult for public pools to comply,” she says.

Kathleen Reilly, public affairs specialist for CPSC, says: “I wouldn't say there was nationwide uniformity at this point. It's amazing. If you call people in different parts of the country, you get different responses. Some people say it's no big deal, and some are having problems complying.”

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