Many members of the pool and spa industry remain confused about how the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act will affect residential installations.
For the most part, pools and spas located in single-family dwellings aren’t immediately impacted.
“Due to the tremendous amount of work the agency has to do regarding [the commercial section] of the Pool and Spa Safety Act, we are not working on [the residential portion] at this time,” said Scott Wolfson, spokesman for CPSC, which is in charge of administering the act.
Much of the confusion stems from the structure of the law itself. The legislation was broken up into two parts — commercial and residential — and they are written very differently.
The commercial section provides definite language and a compliance deadline for public pools nationwide. However, the residential portion puts individual states in charge, offering small grants to those that legislate their own safety laws for residential pools and spas. These laws would have to meet minimum requirements determined by CPSC.
But that’s where the process ground to a halt.
Last September, CPSC released a preliminary draft of the residential requirements and received public comments. The agency was then supposed to be given funding for the grant program, but late last year, the House of Representatives put CPSC’s 2009 budget on hold. It is hoped that Congress will determine the budget sometime this quarter.
Once that happens, CPSC would review public comments regarding the residential requirements and go on to develop final language, CPSC’s Wolfson said.
Currently, the requirements mandate that all residential pools must be equipped with compliant drain covers for states to obtain the grant money. In addition, pools must be built with dual or unblockable drains, or no drains at all. Backup anti-entrapment devices such as safety vacuum release systems, suction-limiting vents and automatic pump shut-offs were not listed as mandatory.
Some industry members hope to see this changed, claiming that entrapment can happen on a dual-drain system if one of the drains becomes clogged.
“In shallow bodies of water, north of the freeze line, [pools] must have the drain covers removed and plugs installed to prevent freezing,” wrote David Stingl and Anthony R. Sirianni, founding partner and president, respectively of Stingl Products, LLC. “These systems fill with sand, plaster and other debris, making them an invisible hazard.
“For the builder who chooses to use a multiple drain system, the cost of installing a vent line would not exceed $200. ...”
The barrier requirements also have drawn criticism. Four-sided fences are mandated on inground and aboveground pools and spas, but the house can function as one side of that barrier if door alarms or an automatic safety cover are used.
But safety organizations and even the law’s author want “true” four-sided isolation fencing.