Industry representatives are trying to persuade the U.S. Consumer
Product Safety Commission to reverse a recent decision involving
the federal pool and spa safety law.
In September, CPSC narrowed the definition of an unblockable drain
in the VGB Act. Previously, a drain was considered unblockable as
long as the cover met certain measurements and flow requirements.
The latest decision restricted the meaning further, stating that
the sump also must meet dimensional criteria.
Because of the recent ruling, drains that have fallen out of the
unblockable category (those with sumps measuring 18-by-23-inches or
smaller) now are considered single blockable outlets, and must be
split or receive backups. CPSC said these retrofits must occur by
May 28, 2012, but allowed a comment period to receive input on the
In response, the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals issued
an alert asking its members to write letters to CPSC, as well as to
the congressional subcommittee overseeing the agency and individual
legislators who sponsored VGB as a bill.
Additionally, drain cover producer Worldwide Sports hired a
lobbyist to submit a letter on its behalf as well as other
interested parties. The letter went to Gib Mullan, chief counsel of
the House Subcommittee overseeing the CPSC.
“Hopefully, they’ll get enough safety-based information
to either do an oversight hearing or send another letter to the
commission,” said Walt Sanders, vice president of law and
government affairs at Alexandria, Va.-based Van Fleet Associates,
who wrote the letter.
The letter suggested the CPSC ruling was vulnerable to having an
injunction placed against it because no public comment period was
allowed. It went on to cite a case where a similar CPSC decision
was reversed in court.
Other manufacturers have written in as well, and some have
encouraged customers to comment. The American Hotel & Lodging
Association also plans to rebut CPSC’s decision.
Ultimately, these industry representatives hope to convince CPSC to
revert to the original wording. But internal politics make that
unlikely. CPSC is structured so that three of the five
decision-makers come from the same political party as the U.S.
president, and at the Sept. 28 hearing, all three Democrats voted
together on the unblockable drain issue. Also, one of those
Democrats has retired, and many worry that CPSC will be unable to
effect any change with two votes on either side of an issue.
It isn’t known when the retiring commissioner will be
replaced, but CPSC has in the past operated for lengthy periods
without five commissioners in place.