Public pool operators aren’t the only ones wondering what the Pool and Spa Safety Act may mean for their facilities. Hot tub manufacturers and retailers are waiting to see how portable spas will be affected.

The law states that beginning Dec. 19, 2008, manufacturers can only sell drain covers that meet ASME/ANSI A112.19.8 – 2007. Manufacturers have developed outlets that meet the structural requirements of the standard, but there are issues about the allowed flow through the outlets.

One area, in particular, is problematic. To pass the hair-entanglement test, hot tub drains would have to be down-rated to 75 gallons per minute rather than the approximately 150- to 200 gpm required to properly operate most units.

As of press time, industry representatives were slated to make a presentation to the ASME/ANSI A112.19.8 – 2007 Standards Writing Committee on Jan. 12, proposing a wording change that would make allowances for hot-tub drains.

“We have asked them to have the test labs test these appliances … as they’re actually built because nobody can modify it, and a builder won’t install it wrong,” said Steve Barnes, chairman of the APSP Technical Committee and product manager, safety and compliance, at Pentair Pool Products. “It’s a finished product.”

APSP and spa manufacturers also hope to amend the standard to allow dual drains to be placed on separate planes in lieu of the required 3-foot separation because portable spas rarely have that much room in the foot well.

Changing the standard could take several months. In the meantime, APSP has made a few requests of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to tide the industry over.

First, the association has asked for a confirmation letter stating that drains made prior to Dec. 19 can continue to be sold, even if they don’t meet the ASME/ANSI standard. A similar stance recently was taken by the agency regarding the toy industry and another law.

APSP also made a proposal to address portable spas produced between Dec. 19, 2008, and June 19, 2009. The association asked that CPSC allow the current outlet designs to continue being installed on portable spas as long as the spa is tested by a nationally recognized laboratory and the outlets conform to certain requirements. The criteria state that the outlets comply with the structural requirements of the ASME/ANSI standard; that there be at least two per pump; that they be either spaced at least 3 feet apart, on multiple planes, or backed with a safety vacuum release system, suction-limiting vent or other similar system.

Some manufacturers believe that factory-made hot tubs are a wholly different product than inground spas because they are produced in a controlled environment and regularly tested by independent laboratories. Therefore, they contend that these products should not fall under the ASME/ANSI standard. Because there are no records of an entrapment occurring in a portable spa, APSP officials said the industry is hoping that CPSC will agree.

For now, hot tub professionals are waiting to find out what to do next, and many feel that their hands are tied behind their backs.

“I don’t have any idea how it’s going to work itself out, other than the fact that we cannot sell any hot tub drain covers at all,” said Raymond Thibault, general manager of Horizon Spa & Pool Parts Inc., a Tucson, Ariz.-based distributor. “The fact that we’re in one of the worst recessions we’ve seen in a long time … that’s just not very helpful.

“But I have to think that something’s going to get worked out. Something will happen in short order. I just don’t know how it’s going to manifest itself.”