The Consumer Product Safety Commission has voted to restrict
allowances given to unblockable drain covers in the federal pool
and spa safety law.
Today, CPSC’s voting commissioners decided to change the
definition of an unblockable drain to require that the sump, in
addition to the drain cover, measure more than 18 by 23 inches and
meet certain other testing criteria. The measure passed 3 to 2, in
what some say was a predetermined outcome.
The decision is retroactive, so pools that were brought into VGBA
compliance with the installation of an unblockable–sized
cover over a single, blockable-sized drain will have be split,
supplemented with a secondary system, or otherwise treated like a
While the agency has posted a compliance date of May 28, 2012, it
has declared a 60-day public-comment period for affected parties to
comment on whether that deadline is realistic.
This latest episode attached to the first federal pool and spa
safety law began in April 2010, when the Commission decided a drain
can be considered unblockable if its cover complies with the VGB
Act, regardless of sump size. This measure proved controversial. It
spurred immediate push-back and a letter-writing campaign from
safety advocates, as well as some politicians and industry
professionals concerned that unblockable drains would become unsafe
if their covers came off and exposed a smaller sump.
The CPSC is comprised of five commissioners — two
Republicans, two Democrats and a chairman appointed by the US
President. Two of the three Democrats — Chairman Inez
Tenenbaum and Thomas Moore — opposed last year’s
ruling. The two Republicans — Anne Northup and Nancy Nord
— voted for it.
The only Democrat to approve last year’s interpretation,
Robert Adler, was the primary target of the letter-writing campaign
and other protest. After receiving input from parties on both sides
of the question, Adler had a change of heart and initiated the
revote. In early September, with two weeks’ notice, the
agency announced the meeting but did not invite public
The two Republican voting members publicly protested the revote.
While it was originally scheduled to take place Sept. 21, one of
the Republican members — Nord — exercised the right all
commissioners have to move the hearing back a week, to today. Both
she and Northup voted against the move.
“Certainly Anne’s disappointed in the outcome of the
vote,” said Mark Fellin, a spokesperson for Northup.
“We knew it was coming, but I think the entire time we had
hoped that the facts would present themselves and we would make a
rule based on those facts. ... All the facts that we’ve
received have been that the current method was ... safe and where
we’re going forward now is actually going to create more
problems in the future.”
Look for additional coverage of this issue in Pool & Spa
News and on www.poolspanews.com.