Members of the pool and spa industry are preparing to do battle at the International Code Council’s biannual hearings on code development, set for Feb. 18- March 1 in Palm Springs, Calif.

At issue is whether safety vacuum release systems should continue to be required on pools. The SVRS mandate was adopted in 2003 as part of an appendix to the code.

The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals wants the ICC to incorporate ANSI/APSP-7 into its code. The standard, published in 2006, requires dual main drains and entrapment-proof covers while listing SVRS’s as an option.

But SVRS proponents are gearing up with proposals of their own.

“There will be a substantial contingency of safety-minded testimony in opposition to APSP’s efforts,” said Paul Pennington, president of Vac-Alert Industries, a Fort Pierce, Fla.-based manufacturer of SVRS devices. He’s also a founding member of the Pool Safety Consortium, a group of safety-product manufacturers.

“The Pool Safety Consortium has a position to stop the APSP from trying to remove SVRS’s from the International Building Codes,” Pennington said. “As a fallback position, we have also put in a proposal saying that if they adopt APSP-7, then they still add … that you must have, as a final layer of protection, a gravity system, an atmospheric vent system or a safety vacuum release system.”

The ICC will hear both sides and take a preliminary vote. Following a public comment period that ends June 9, the council will meet again in September and take a final tally.

Though February’s decision can be overturned at the next meeting, it takes a two-thirds majority to alter the initial vote. This makes the upcoming ruling especially important, said Carvin DiGiovanni, senior director of standards and government relations at APSP.

With its standard complete, APSP likes its chances. “The last time we had the opportunity to present this to them, the ANSI-7 standard wasn’t finished and [the ICC] said, ‘Come back to us when the consensus process is complete,’” said Bill Weber, APSP president/CEO. “It’s now complete, so we’re coming back.”

To help its prospects, the association hired Loraine Ross, president of Intech Consulting Inc. in Gulfport, Fla., to help with lobbying efforts.

Adding another wrinkle to an already complex and contentious issue is the recently passed Pool & Spa Safety Act, the first-ever national legislation addressing suction entrapment.

The law’s requirements are to be administered by the Consumer Product Safety Commission; however, a lack of clarity in the language poses a problem. Some believe it already calls for SVRS’s to be mandatory, while others disagree.

If the ICC were to adopt ANSI/APSP-7, then APSP would be given a powerful tool to help persuade the Consumer Product Safety Commission not to require an SVRS device when enacting the Pool & Spa Safety Act.

On the other hand, the Pool Safety Consortium plans to mention the Act in its case against incorporating ANSI/APSP-7 into the IRC and IBC. “We’re saying it’s just plain premature to make any changes at this time until the CPSC outlines the Pool Safety Act requirements,” Pennington said.