An uptick in sales of drain covers and suction vacuum release systems indicates an increasing awareness of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act among pool operators.
But there’s still a long way to go.
“There certainly has been a fairly significant gain in sales in the past 60 days or so,” said Manuel J. Perez de la Mesa, CEO of PoolCorp in Covington, La. “But nowhere close to what they should be.”
Across the board, suppliers say there hasn’t been nearly enough product sold to bring the country’s approximately 300,000 public pools into compliance. It’s not clear how many units are needed to make this happen, but experts estimate that only 5 to 20 percent are up to speed.
“We sold tens of thousands of [safety vacuum release] valves in the last 12 months,” said Paul Pennington, president of Vac-Alert in Santa Rosa, Calif. “But it certainly is nothing compared to what’s out there.”
As of Dec. 19, 2008, all public pools were required to have VGB-compliant drain covers and either a dual-drain system, or single-drain backup such as a safety vacuum release system, suction-limiting vent or other device meant to prevent a vacuum from forming.
Orders for these products increased slowly in early autumn as the deadline approached. “We didn’t really see a genuine change in behavior until November,” Perez de la Mesa said. “Before that, it was still relatively novel.” As expected, sales rose dramatically in December, and have continued to strengthen.
“It seems they’ve picked up since the deadline,” said Patti Kirsch, vice president of sales and marketing for Waterway Plastics in Oxnard, Calif. “Maybe because of trade shows, word of mouth and inspectors out there getting to know more.”
Many believe the boost in numbers stems from increased awareness of the law caused by coverage in trade magazines and industry events, as well as high-profile reports about the law that appeared in the mainstream news.
“When the deadline came for VGB, I don’t believe that the people were educated enough to know the law was going to be enforced and how it applied to them,” said Bruce Porter, director of marketing communications for Hayward Pool Products in Elizabeth, N.J. “Now that they understand the implications, it has changed. The phones have been ringing [with people asking] how they can become compliant.”
Any pools closed for winter have until they open to comply. For this reason, suppliers anticipate high demand through Memorial Day.
In fall, some public-pool operators had difficulty obtaining necessary products for their pools. Some drain covers weren’t deemed compliant until November. Now, manufacturers report that they’re able to keep up with demand for the most part by working overtime. “Everybody is working seven days a week getting ready for what they think is going to be a bigger number,” said Anthony Sirianni, president/co-founder of Stingl Products LLC, in Sterling, Va.