This firm’s intense hiring practices are the result of a clear business objective that takes advantage of a brutal job market.

  • The Arc of Time

Our primeval connection to water will see this industry through the arc of a hundred lifetimes.

  • Measuring Stick

To compete in the current market, Top Builders must excel in a variety of areas, each one requiring its own strength.


Until I began working at Pool & Spa News, I never gave any real thought to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. I would skim articles about some product recall and realize, in a vague sort of way, that the CPSC was behind it.

I also had an inchoate sense that this was good. Here was an agency whose primary purpose was to protect us from greedy or incompetent manufacturers that bring unsafe products to market. The concept seemed truly ambitious in the best possible sense of the word.

But I was wrong.

The CPSC is indeed ambitious, but in the worst possible sense of the word.

The agency is made up of five commissioners — two Republicans, two Democrats and a chairman appointed by the U.S. president.

Working with a budget of more than $150 million, they oversee many standards for products and spearhead recalls. That all sounds fine.

But depending on the leanings of a sitting president, and which party has the majority among commissioners, they either ignore obvious dangers or zealously regulate every piece of dryer lint. Lately, the trend has been toward lint-regulation, and nowhere is this more painfully obvious than in the CPSC’s handing of drain cover safety.

The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, which passed through Congress in 2007, basically stated, “Pool and spa drains need to be safe, and the CPSC is going to tell you what that means.”

To be fair, I pity anyone who has to take on that task. The pool business has more than its share of pettiness, bickering and dishonesty, and I wish I could have been a fly on the wall just to watch the CPSC staff having to deal with some of the more illustrious members of our industry. But working alongside a handful of businesspeople with strong opinions is no excuse for the way the agency dragged its feet. In fact, by the time they finally released the new requirements, manufacturers were unable to produce product quickly enough to meet the compliance deadline.

Now to be fair, that could’ve been the result of incompetence. But next came this year’s recall, which had a smell of political maneuvering. After more than a year of investigation, the CPSC recalled approximately one million drain covers two days before Memorial Day weekend, throwing the pool industry into confusion at the busiest time of the year.

Were these drain covers so unsafe that they needed to be immediately removed? Of course not. In the past 20 years there have been about 150 entrapment incidents, which sounds high until you consider the billions of times people have entered pools or spas and touched the drains during that period. Moreover, while it is not known how many of those occurrences happened with an intact drain cover, the industry’s best guess is that the number is in the single digits. The issue is less about the cover itself and more about making sure it stays in place. Finally, there have been no entrapments on any of the recalled covers. Not one.

Were there issues with the testing that needed to be addressed? Absolutely. Did that have to happen in a rush of emergency-type measures right before Memorial Day? Absolutely not.

And finally there’s the current vote — or should I say revote because the issue was already decided last year — on the definition of “Unblockable drain.” (See our news story.)

The CPSC will shortly determine, again, whether or not requirements for these drains need to become more stringent. If the new proposal passes, it would mean that many commercial pools are now, for the third time in three years, suddenly noncompliant.

All indicators point toward the revision probably going through, with the vote following political party lines.

But why is that the case? As with the recall, either the drains are safe enough to be used by the public or they are not, and a CPSC commissioner’s political beliefs should be completely irrelevant when he or she ponders the way water flows through a piece of plastic.

The basic reason for this right-left split is that Democrats are more aggressive about enacting regulations while Republicans favor business interests. But unlike debating a topic with no known answer (Do human clones have souls?) the question of unblockable drain safety has a solution that is quantifiable in the real world.

The CPSC’s Website defines the agency’s mission as “protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction.”

In light of that statement, the only pertinent question is: Do these unblockable drains pose an “unreasonable risk?” Anyone who’s familiar with the science and has an ounce of integrity knows the answer.

I wish our government officials fell under that definition.