As the industry scrambles to address the recently announced CPSC drain-cover recall, the ripple effects are starting to be felt.
“Everyone’s head is spinning,” said Rob Romano, a
general manager at David Cooke Plaster Co. in Norwalk, Conn.
“Like they weren’t spinning enough from when they put
[the VGB Act] in place and there were no covers to install. Then
they say, ‘Here are the covers you can use.’ And now
they’re saying, ‘No, no, no, they aren’t any
CPSC officials issued the recall shortly before Memorial Day
weekend along with an advisory that public pools and spas needing a
replacement or retrofit be closed.
Many have said that it would have made a significant difference if
the announcement had come even a couple of weeks earlier, and
wondered why it took so long, considering that concerns were
initially raised last year.
“It’s frustrating,” said Terri Stroupe, aquatic
facilities and program director at the Raleigh (N.C.) Parks and
Recreation Department. “If we are all working together toward
safety, they should have given us a head’s up.”
CPSC officials acknowledged the unfortunate timing, but said
coordinating with the manufacturers required time. “This is
not a situation where the companies volunteered early on to conduct
recalls,” said Scott Wolfson, the agency’s spokesman.
“We had to do our own testing, and then we had to work to
negotiate with these companies to get to a global recall
In general, many thought the recall raised more questions than
answers. The announcement didn’t provide deadlines and
“advised” that affected commercial pools and spas be
shut down, leaving operators to make tough decisions.
“We’re hoping for better direction from CPSC and
manufacturers,” said Daryl Matzke, vice president/director of
aquatics at Ramaker & Associates in Sauk City, Wis. “They
put out the alarm and we’re all saying, ‘But now
Though many decided to close down the higher-risk wading pools,
kiddie pools and spas, others chose to keep their pools open,
believing the risk was very low.
YMCA, for one, has kept most of its pools open for the time being,
said Kathy Fisher aquatic director of the West Morris (N.J.) Area
YMCA. She closed the spa at her facility and is awaiting a
replacement cover, which she was told will arrive in about four weeks.
As service firms and builders try to help clients, they remain
concerned about product availability, compensation for labor and
other issues controlled by the manufacturers.
“There have been no answers,” said Peter Haverlation,
owner of Peter’s Pool Service in North Hills, Calif.
“Nobody knows how this is going to work out. The recall
notices aren’t clear. Who’s going to pay for this? How
much are they paying? When do I get paid?”
When it comes to exactly how individual manufacturers are handling
the recalls, most will not comment, instead directing media
inquiries to the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals. Of
the eight producers conducting full-scale recalls, all but Waterway
Plastics agreed to work through the association, which would only
speak in generalities.
“Product availability varies by manufacturer,” said
APSP spokeswoman Lisa Greggs. “Some have replacements or
retrofits on hand, while others are working closely with customers
to communicate delivery dates.”
For its part, Waterway officials said they had produced about
50,000 of the recalled units, and that their retrofit parts had
begun shipping the day after the announcement.
Color Match Pool Fittings responded as well. “We’re
going to work on a retrofit part that will bring our drains up to
standard,” said Todd Krombein, president of the Surprise,
Ariz.-based firm. “That should probably be available in a
couple of months.”
Service firms and builders have had to contact each manufacturer
separately, encountering different levels of responsiveness. It is
clear several of the producers, too, are still finding their way.
The first week, “most of them seemed to be setting up
hotlines so they can direct calls to a particular
department,” said Julie Godsey, customer service
representative at Payan Pool Service in El Cajon, Calif.
“They’re clearly new hotlines and manned, I think, by
new people. There’s a learning curve.” By the following
week, she said, they seemed more knowledgeable.
The product delays leave service firms and builders in the awkward
position of needing to decide whether to tell clients about the
recall. “Do you yell ‘liability’ right in the
middle of pool season when you don’t have a resolution?
No,” one professional said. “You wait until you have
something in your hand that you can attack it with, and
that’s what’s happening — nobody’s saying
anything until there’s clarity and drain covers in
Those who do discuss it sometimes have to face angry clients.
“I’m in trouble with my customers because I recommended
that these drain covers be put in and now they’re looking at
me like I’m on the hook,” Haverlation said.
“It’s causing some people to doubt the things that you
say. Those of us in the service business are catching it all
because of the mismanagement of the testing procedures.”
Commercial pools aren’t the only ones affected either. Some
professionals report difficulty finding drain covers for
residential pools. “You cannot buy a drain cover in
distribution right now unless you buy one of two bulky commercial
ones,” said Bryan Chrissan, president of Clear Valley Pool
Service in Temecula, Calif. “They’re being shipped, but
they’re being hoarded.”
To maintain his company’s work flow, one plasterer is
stocking up. “I was at SCP yesterday, and I bought everything
they had that was compliant,” said Shawn Still, general
manager of Olympic Pool Plastering in Norcross, Ga. “I
can’t rely on the builders to provide them. I had one tell
us, ‘You’re the pool plasterer; it’s your
Doing that has become at least a part-time job, he added. To
maintain enough inventory, he works with three local distributors
and uses three brands. “One of us is speaking almost daily to
the manufacturers and/or distributors, just making sure that
we’re aware of what’s coming down the pipe,” he said.
But if replacements or repair kits aren’t readily available,
many people may well buy from another manufacturer, some industry
members said. One of Paramount Pool & Spa System’s models
was recalled after just 25 units were installed. But since the
announcement, its approved covers are selling in larger numbers.
“Our sales have been crazy,” said Buzz Ghiz, president
of the Chandler, Ariz., firm. “This was as a result of the
Reporting for this article was contributed by Kendra Kozen, Dan
Schechner, Erika Taylor, Gary Thill and Ben Thomas.