An ABC News story claiming that four popular
VGB-approved drain covers were unsafe caused some to suspect that
competing forces improperly leaked preliminary information.
“We are very disappointed, and call this highly
irresponsible to the public and to businesses,” said Reza
Afshar, president of AFRAS Industries, one of the manufacturers
mentioned in the report.
Written by Asa Eslocker and posted on ABC’s Website, the
article quoted a “confidential industry study” calling
into question drain covers by three manufacturers: AFRAS in
Westlake Village, Calif.; AquaStar Pool Products in San Diego; and
Paramount Pool and Spa Systems in Chandler, Ariz.
None of the three manufacturers have been allowed access to the
documents cited by ABC.
According to ABC, the report stated that three of the four drain
covers do not perform at the levels recorded in previous tests.
The fourth cover, Paramount’s SDX, did meet its original
performance parameters, though the network did not mention that
until the final paragraph of the article.
“If [the results] were to change, we would be very
proactive, but they haven’t changed,” said Paramount
President Buzz Ghiz. “Our drain [cover] is still approved
To become VGB-approved, drain covers must undergo testing by one
of three independent laboratories — International Association
of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), NSF International or
Underwriters Laboratories (UL). The facilities use procedures
outlined in the drain-cover standard ASME/ANSI A112.19.8-2007.
Development of the standard and its implementation are overseen
by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). When one lab
takes issue with another’s methods, it files a complaint with
Just such a situation led to the confidential report cited by
ABC. Earlier this year, NSF questioned the methods of IAPMO, which
tested all of the drain covers named in the ABC story. NSF said
that IAPMO’s testing showed lower performance parameters on
“We filed a complaint to ANSI because we believe the most
conservative testing method has not been used, and public health is
at risk,” said Dave Purkiss, general manager of water
treatment and distribution systems for NSF, based in Ann Arbor,
New testing was conducted in response to that complaint, to
double-check the original performance ratings, according to Russ
Chaney, CEO of IAPMO,IAPMO and the three drain-cover manufacturers
stand by the original performance ratings and say that the new test
results should not have been divulged.
For one thing, Chaney said, though ABC claimed to be citing a
definitive report, the results actually were preliminary. “As
I understand it… the report was far from complete and should
have remained confidential,” he said. “I’ve since
seen the [leaked] document, and it’s inconsistent with what
ultimately has been provided through the audit
Because the report is confidential, Chaney is barred from saying
whether the four drains fared better in the final version.
One manufacturer also questioned the methods used for the newest
round of tests. “It wasn’t an accurate report,”
said Wade Arens, head of research, testing and support at AquaStar.
“It wasn’t tested per the standard or manufacturing
installation instructions. The results were totally
But another concern weighs at least as heavily on people’s
minds: For ABC to obtain the study, it would have had to be leaked.
Manufacturers and others in the industry wonder how and why.
When one lab questions the methods of another, ANSI supervises
the testing on the premises of the lab in question, in this case
IAPMO’s Ontario, Calif., facility. As part of this process,
certain individuals attend as witnesses, including staff members
from ANSI and the testing lab, as well as industry experts.
Often, Chaney said, such experts can include manufacturers whose
products compete with the ones being rechecked. In this case,
Chaney believes competitors were present. “I’m
relatively confident there were representatives or observers who
were competitors to some of the products that were being audited or
tested,” he said.
Industry observers said certain firms whose interests conflict
with those of AFRAS, AquaStar and Paramount sit on the committee
charged with writing and refining ASME/ANSI A112.19.8-2007. Some
worry that such persons may have attended the tests, become privy
to the results and divulged them.
“The problem is, there’s an interest group behind
this, the people who are trying to promote certain products,”
Those with access to the testing and report would have signed a
legally binding confidentiality agreement. This means a breach of
contract took place.
ANSI would not comment on how the leak could have occurred, who
had access to the information or what is being done to prevent such
breaches in the future.
But the ABC story also brought up concerns about the drain
standard itself. Some believe it doesn’t do a thorough enough
job describing the testing methods, thereby leaving too much room
for interpretation by the labs.
The ASME/APSP committee in charge of the standard has been
working to tighten the testing methodology. “The issues that
were brought up were already under consideration,” said Leif
Zars, committee chairman. “Action has been taken and is being
taken to correct the oversight.”
NSF officials agree that the language needs some tightening, but
say this doesn’t explain the kind of performance variances
claimed in the ABC report.
“The current test procedures … are explained
clearly, and different labs should obtain similar results if the
procedures are followed properly,” NSF’s Purkiss said.
“If there are areas that are open to interpretation,
laboratories should choose the conservative approach .”