A New York congresswoman has joined the chorus of pool and spa safety advocates.
During an appearance at a local public pool in July, Nita Lowey, D-Westchester/ Rockland, encouraged residential pool owners to follow the mandates of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act .
So as another voice promotes VGB compliance, it begs the question: Could the law ever realistically be required for residential pools?
“Suction entrapment is avoidable. The rub is, how do we get [VGB] into backyards?” said Steve Barnes, chairman of the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals ’ Technical Committee.
“At the top of the list are private property rights, and whether the federal government has the authority to mandate that people buy things for their personal property,” he added. “What also makes this a challenge is that there’s no uniform inspection and permitting locally. Every city and state has its own process. And because all politics are local, for local lawmakers to pass something like this would be political suicide.”
One solution floated by industry experts involves implementing triggers to activate provisions of the law for residential pools. For example, when a home is sold, there could be a requirement that its pool is made VGB-compliant before the sale can be finalized. Extensive renovation work also could serve as a trigger to mandate new drain covers and associated VGB fixes.
But such proposals could create a political minefield, especially in a down economy when many homeowners are wary of taking on added expenses.
Even Lowey’s staff backed off from suggesting the congresswoman was proposing extending VGB into private backyards.
“There are no details yet on how that would be done legislatively or legally. It’s very much conceptual at this point,” said Matthew Dennis, communications director at Rep. Lowey’s office. “So I wouldn’t rule it out in the future, but she hasn’t called for the law to apply to private or residential pools.”
At this point, they stressed, her focus remained on raising awareness of the potential hazards of nonVGB-compliant pools, and suggesting that homeowners voluntarily pursue those upgrades outlined in the federal law.