Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.
Now, in order to comply with the law aimed at preventing suction
entrapment in pool drains, public pools with a single main drain must
have a back-up system capable of shutting the drain's suction.
Reversing a decision made nearly 18 months ago, the U.S. Consumer
Product Safety Commission on Wednesday voted, 3-2, to change its
guidelines regarding how aquatic facility operators comply with the |
Previously, an unblockable drain — originally defined by the act as a
"drain of any size and shape that a human body cannot sufficiently block
to create a suction entrapment hazard," such as a dome-shaped cover —
was considered acceptable. On Wednesday, according to the Associated Press,
commissioners expressed concerns that the drain cover could break, come
loose or be improperly installed. Hence, the decision to reverse
The move, which came after two hours of often contentious and emotional
debate, is a blow to public pool facilities with single-drain systems,
which must purchase and install new and costly back-up systems — or
close their doors if they don't comply — by the tentative date of May
28, 2012. Many facility operators have already spent thousands of
dollars retrofitting their pools with new drain covers.
Pools with multiple drains are not affected by the vote.
Wednesday's vote was precipitated by one of the agency's five commissioners wanting to change his earlier vote on how
pool operators should interpret the law, the AP reports. “My previous
interpretation is wrong,” Bob Adler said in the meeting, explaining that
he has spent months talking to lawmakers who helped write the law and
to industry officials, as well as hearing from parents who lost children
in entrapment accidents.
As AP reporter Jennifer Kerr writes, the overall impact on cities and
states is not clear, because neither the CPSC nor industry officials
were able to provide figures on how many of the nation’s estimated
300,000 public pools have single-drain systems.
Although public comment was not welcome prior to Wednesday's meeting,
public input will be sought regarding the May 28 effective date for the
changed policy. “It’s like saying we’re going to guillotine you, now
tell us what day would be convenient,” dissenting commissioner Nancy Nord said.
Prior to the meeting, as Athletic Business sister publication AQUA reported,
"some industry observers have stated that this change is unnecessary,
pointed out that the vacillating rulings of the CPSC create an
atmosphere of uncertainty, and noted that this strong blow to the
finances of public pools diminishes their ability to provide the
swimming instruction that prevents drowning, a much larger threat to
public safety than entrapment."
Between 1999 and 2010, there were 12 fatalities — mostly children — from
pool and hot tub drain entrapments, as well as approximately 80
injuries, according to government figures. "In stark contrast, over
1,500 families have lost a loved one due to drowning this year alone,"
Thomas M. Lachocki, chief executive officer of the National Swimming Pool
Foundation, said in a statement. "The recession has resulted in
hundreds of pool closures, reducing swim lessons
and increasing unemployment. The commission's decision to include
another level of entrapment protection may increase drowning risk as
pools close and fewer children learn to swim."