The Connecticut pool and spa industry is embroiled in an all-out saga as it lobbies for removal of the state’s requirement for safety vacuum release systems on all new pools and spas.
Connecticut is in the process of updating its requirements to the 2009 edition of the International Building Code and the International Residential Code. These latest versions do not have the SVRS mandates.
New Jersey and Pennsylvania have adopted the 2009 I-Codes, and though New York also brought in the 2006 version, the state made a special exception for the pool and spa section by incorporating the 2009 language.
Connecticut has been trickier. The state is especially sensitive about the issue of entrapment since 2007, when 6-year-old Zachary Archer Cohn of Greenwich, Conn., drowned after his arm became stuck in a single-suction outlet located on a pool wall. Many believe an SVRS would have saved his life.
But others also stand behind the newest version of the code, which incorporates language from the ANSI/APSP-7 Standard for Suction Entrapment Avoidance. These experts say if the Cohn pool had been constructed to the ANSI standard, the entrapment never would have occurred.
“We want everybody to be safe in the pool, and ANSI-7 is the safest way to build a swimming pool,” said Robert Romano, past president of NESPA’s Connecticut Chapter.
As the industry began lobbying to adopt the newer I-Codes, a state builder received news that set the efforts back. Coventry, Conn.-based Sabrina Pools was notified that it would have to install SVRSs on five pools it had previously built, despite having received waivers at the time of construction. State building inspector Lisa Humble had overturned the waivers, which were issued by her predecessor.
Sabrina Pools appealed the decision, and the Department of Public Safety’s Codes and Standards Committee found in favor of the firm, saying that the dual-drain pools in question did not need SVRSs. Humble asked the committee to reconsider, but it refused. Neither Humble nor Sabrina Pools could be reached for comment.
Humble has appealed the decision again, this time to the Connecticut Superior Court.
The committee charged with updating the state’s building code is waiting for the situation to become resolved before it addresses the pool and spa language, and the clock continues to tick on this year’s cycle.
“If they can’t get us through by the time they adopt [the state building code], I think we’re waiting for the next cycle to go through,” said Lawrence Caniglia, executive director of the Northeast Spa & Pool Association.
The stakes become larger as the case moves higher up the legal food chain. After the Superior Court, there’s only one more venue — the state Supreme Court. But the chances of getting that audience are slim.
“They don’t hear that many civil cases, especially the Supreme Court,” Caniglia said. “My thinking is, whatever happens at this level is it. We have our fingers crossed.”