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    Credit: PHOTO BY PAM FRANKHAUSER

Drain-cover manufacturer AquaStar Pool Products has terminated its authorized installer program that was established to implement this year’s product recall.

In May, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled 95 models of drain covers with the potential of 1 million units needing to be replaced or repaired. As one of the biggest players in the drain-cover market, AquaStar had 20 models named.

The company first sent a brief email notifying installers, and then followed with an expanded communication that provided additional information.

“We have been informed that in multiple situations our installation instructions are not being followed, there have been other brands’ drains being improperly replaced with ours, paperwork has been forged, and that there are severe liabilities for us for considering contractors as ‘authorized’ for the recall when these situations occur,” stated AquaStar President Olaf Mjelde in his first message. “So effective immediately we have been advised and are forced to discontinue our Authorized Installer Program.”

Though most installers had done a good job, he said, from now on AquaStar will only work with pool owners, who will receive the necessary products and be responsible for making arrangements to install the new drain covers. The email also stated that the company would provide a fee for installation, though no amount was specified.

The change took effect Oct. 6, though pools and spas registered with AquaStar before that date can continue with the original installation arrangement. “All invoices received after today that we do not find the registration for will be required to show a proof of registration date to be reimbursed,” Mjelde said in the message.

In his second email, he said that this situation was thrust upon the industry because of CPSC’s investigation of the testing laboratories charged with determining drain-cover flow ratings.

“The testing labs tell us the flow rates and we sell them as such, so when they were found to be questionable, of course all were surprised,” Mjelde said. “The affected manufacturers were given one day before the announcement Memorial Day weekend to react and devise a recall plan, so revisions and changes have been necessary as the phases and situations have developed over the last few months.

“We feel that we have gone above and beyond what the majority of manufacturers have in this recall effort and hope that you can understand the position that we, as a company that was on the forefront of VGB, have been faced with.”

Some of AquaStar’s clients agree with that assessment and sympathize with the manufacturer. “They made a big effort to be first on the block with approved covers,” said Bill Peck, owner of William Peck Pool Services in Poway, Calif. “They came to distributors, taught seminars and made themselves available in what I thought were remarkable ways.  So I figure they must have a good reason for what they’re doing.”

But some worry about having pool owners work directly with the manufacturer. “I’m concerned about the residential pools,” said Mike Geremia, president of Geremia Pools in Sacramento, Calif. “Who’s going to take care of them? I’m not big on having consumers take care of it themselves if that’s what the goal is.”

But Peck said he’ll work within the situation. “It’s easy enough to basically take care of it for them, but have them do whatever they have to do,” Peck said. “When they get whatever they get, then I take care of it. I’m not really worried about it.”