The Texas Senate has passed a pool and spa safety bill that would implement safety requirements more stringent than those in the federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.

SB 96 takes many VGB Act requirements for commercial vessels and places them on all pools and spas statewide.

And if passed as currently written, it would add other requirements as well. In addition to the drain requirements found in the federal law, the Texas legislation would require a safety vacuum release system, suction-limiting vent or other such device as a backup on all pools to prevent a vacuum from forming. If passed, the law will apply to pools and spas built on or after Sept. 1, 2009.

Existing single-drain pools renovated after that date must be modified to have a dual-drain, unblockable drain or drainless system, as well as some of the shut-off devices.

Texas pool and spa industry groups support the bill in principle, but are working to modify certain parts of the language. At press time, officials from the Aquatic Professionals Education Council, an industry lobbying group, as well as the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals and the Independent Pool & Spa Service Association were solidifying a united position on the bill.

For her part, APEC member Debra Smith would like to see the SVRS requirement altered. “I feel that if you have more than one drain and one or more unblockable drains or no main drain, there is not a need for an SVRS system,” said the vice president and general manager of Fort Worth-based-based Pulliam Pools and APEC’s past president.

The bill also includes other drowning-prevention requirements, including a stipulation that all pools be outfitted with “barriers to entry designed to effectively prevent small children from gaining unsupervised and unfettered access. ...” This was taken directly from the residential language in the VGB Act.

The bill is sponsored by state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-District 26). It now moves to the state’s House of Representatives, where it will be heard in its first committee.

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