If code officials change their minds, pool professionals could be
required to include a full copper wire grid beneath certain decks
and perimeter surfaces.
A small but persistent group has made numerous attempts to alter
the 2011 National Electrical Code so it mandates the welded copper
wire grids instead of a No. 8 single wire for select perimeter
bonding applications. They will present their case at an appeals
hearing before the National Fire Prevention Association in Boston
in early August.
“The heart of a lot of these discussions is whether anyone
has demonstrated a viable safety hazard in the current
setup,” said Bill Hamilton, Ph.D., an Austin-Texas-based
Hamilton also is a member of NFPA’s code-making panel, which
addresses the section of the NEC covering pools and spas.
“The position of the majority of the panel — including
myself — is that the data that’s been presented thus
far don’t support a change, especially for a technology
that’s been in existence for years,” he added.
The group pushing for the change is led by a manufacturer, an
electrical inspector and a handful of utility companies.
In December 2009, representatives from Consolidated Manufacturing
International, a maker of grounding and bonding products, and an
electrical inspector from Maryland asked the NFPA panel to consider
requiring a welded copper wire grid beneath certain decks and
perimeter surfaces, extending 3 feet from the inside pool
The proposed mandate would not apply to decks with bonded
structural steel. It would, however, call for grids instead of a
single wire beneath pavers, grass and fibercrete surfaces.
The code panel rejected the proposal, as well as subsequent
comments from individuals in the group. The panel stated that there
wasn’t enough evidence to show that the single-wire
requirement posed a safety hazard, among other concerns.
Then, during NFPA’s annual meeting in Las Vegas earlier this
year, proponents of the grid requirement asked the
association’s voting body to overturn the panel’s
decision, which it did.
In keeping with procedure, the matter then was brought back before
the panel, which needed a two-thirds majority to overturn the
voting body’s ruling. The panel again ruled that the
single-wire method of bonding was sufficient, setting the stage for
the 2011 NEC to mirror the 2008 version in that respect.
But it didn’t end there. Recently, an additional appeal was
filed with NFPA by Wayne Robinson of Lothian, Md., the electrical
inspector who, along with a principal of CMI, wrote the original
proposal and subsequent comments that were rejected by the code
Robinson, who has filed multiple requests to require grids in the
2011 NEC, maintains that the single-wire method is
“If you can show me documentation of where the single wire
works, I’ll shut up and go away,” Robinson said.
“But there’s no proof, no test that shows it’s
safe. The single wire is all smoke and mirrors from the pool
To support their claim, grid supporters reference a 2008 study by
the National Electric Energy Testing, Research & Applications
Center. According to one of Robinson’s recent appeals, the
NEETRAC report “substantiated that the single conductor
application may not provide adequate protection that a copper grid
provides. [Also], a number of shock incidents in and around pools
have been recorded and addressed by Georgia Power and Singing River
Utility in Mississippi, which supports the copper grid over a
single conductor application.”
But industry advocates and code panelists have expressed concern
over NEETRAC’s findings. And APSP officials maintain there hasn’t been
a single report of injury or death resulting from stray currents
involving pool decks or perimeter surfaces, which they’ve
termed as “isolated local problems” (a claim Robinson
“Our technical experts have taken exception to the NEETRAC
study, which they say is short on scientific research and
evidence,” said Carvin DiGiovanni, senior director, technical
and standards at APSP. “And our response likely would be
different if the grid were one of the options they presented. But
they want to get rid of the single-gauge wire. So we’re
continuing to fight the same argument, which is to leave the door
open to options and not encumber the industry with this