With summer just around the corner, the big question for many seasonal waterparks is whether they can comply with VGB Act requirements and still open on time.

The compliance deadline was Dec. 19, 2008, and year-round waterparks had to meet that date.

However, facilities that were closed then have until the day they reopen to the public to come into compliance, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

That day is uncomfortably close for many — and the race to comply is on.

For a waterpark to be in compliance, its pools must have approved drain covers and meet the sump-depth requirement on field-fabricated drains. CPSC defines the proper drains as ASME/ANSI A112.19.8-2007-certified drain covers that are safely and securely installed, and have a second anti-entrapment system installed where there’s only a single drain. According to CPSC, a number of large approved drain covers are on the market now, including 18-by-18-inch and 24-by-24-inch sizes.

Meanwhile, a waterpark may continue to use an existing field-fabricated cover if a professional engineer (PE) certifies that it meets the requirements of the ASME/ANSI standard, including flow rates, UV exposure and durability.

Many parks already have gravity drains and multiple drains, which are considered anti-entrapment features, according to the World Waterpark Association. Still, the unique nature of waterparks often makes custom covers the best option for facilities trying to come into compliance.

As for VGBA’s sump-depth requirement, CPSC supports the ASME/ANSI standard, which calls for such sumps to have a depth of 1.5 times the diameter of the piping. But if a new, compliant drain cover can be safely secured onto a pre-existing sump while properly controlling the flow rate, then it is acceptable as well. Again, CPSC recommends that a PE be called in to determine if the sump is in compliance, needs work, or must be replaced.

Rick Root, president of the WWA in Overland Park, Kan., said the VGBA compliance issue affects all waterparks, regardless of their operating schedules. “Many of our [members] operate year ’round; others won’t have to be in compliance until they open for the season, which often is in late May or early June,” Root said.

Many waterparks are taking CPSC’s advice and seeking the services of professional engineers. One such expert is Dallas Wall, PE, of Cloward H2O, a Provo, Utah-based firm of consulting engineers and designers. “My impression is that waterparks are so large and their flow rates so great that most are not yet in compliance,” Wall said. “They must have unblockable drains, per the new law.

“The problem is, there’s so much uncertainty over what ‘unblockable’ is,” he said. “What a waterpark needs to do is contact a professional engineer to come and assess every system in the waterpark and give a statement so [the park can get] in compliance.”

“What’s really troublesome is that there’s no grandfathering,” Wall noted. “It’s a law for all commercial pools, whether waterpark, condo, apartment, municipal — everyone must incorporate [VGBA requirements]. That’s what is causing so much of the problem.” He said a large number of waterpark operators still are unaware of what they must do to comply, and are having trouble finding the approved equipment.

WWA’s Root added that for many waterparks, the compliance process is “burdensome and costly, causing closures while they work on the pools to be in compliance. The waterparks are doing the best they can, and are looking to engineers for assistance.”