In response to the federal Pool and Spa Safety Act, a variety of states have introduced legislation to help enforce the law.
“We need as many boots on the ground as possible to assist us,” said Scott Wolfson, spokesman for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which has been charged with implementing the law.
“We respect the fact that certain jurisdictions are going to make their own decisions, and some of those decisions may be to not enforce. But we don’t want to stop the dialogue.”
Here’s a look at some of the ways officials are dealing with VGB Act compliance around the nation.
Massachusetts takes hard line
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has stated that noncompliant public pools will not be issued operating permits.
Local public health agencies are charged with inspecting and enforcing requirements and the state’s role has been one of consultant, said John Jacob, spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
“Our role was to underline to locals the importance of these regulations and [others] coming down the pike,” Jacob said.
Seasonal pools have until opening day this spring to comply.
Kentucky bill outlines enforcement
Kentucky lawmakers have introduced a bill that would define the terms of enforcement for the VGB Act. Effective immediately after passage and approval, HB 258 would require compliance with the federal law and sets fines for noncompliance between $500 and $2,500. If the bill passes, enforcement likely will be left to the Department of Public Health.
“We think we’ve positioned ourselves well … to actually take action on [pools] that are in noncompliance,” said Guy Delius, director of DPH’s Division of Protection and Safety. “It’s not an easy road, but it’s [hoped that] most folks who can be in compliance are going to be before that first splash hits.”
The bill also gives a 30-day allowance for operators who are experiencing manufacturers’ backlogs for drain covers. SB 21, which contains similar language, currently is being reviewed in the state Senate.
Florida to set enforcement deadline
The Florida Department of Health is finalizing revisions to its 64E-9 pool rule, which addresses enforcement
of the VGB Act. When the rule becomes effective in April, operators will have 180 days to bring their pools to compliance before the Department of Health begins enforcement.
The extended enforcement date and recent availability of large grates have allayed some of the concerns among operators.
“We’re not hearing nearly as much clamoring for relief as we were, especially knowing the CPSC isn’t clamping down on everyone,” noted Bob Vincent, environmental administrator for the state’s Department of Health.
However, relatively few operators are taking pre-emptive action to retrofit to gravity-feed systems, a requirement of 64E-9 that is spread out over the next four years, depending on a pool’s age and design.
L.A. County softens guidelines
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, which oversees 16,000 public pools, has revised its guidelines for VGB enforcement. The department’s Pool Program issued an advisory in November 2008, which required all single main-drain pools that were drained or renovated to retrofit to a dual drain system. Now, the agency will allow the option of SVRS devices in lieu of splitting the drains on the condition that operators are responsible for their proper installation and calibration.
Also, the use of divers now is allowed, provided they have valid contractor’s licenses and submit certificates of completion forms. Previously, all pools needing new drain covers were required to be emptied before work could begin.
Sweeping residential bills issued in Texas
Several bills have been intro-duced into the Texas legislature that would impose strict safety mandates on residential pools. The language in SB 96, HB 463 and HB 526 would require all pools with main drains to install some form of anti-entrapment devices. Additionally, pool builders would be required to sell perimeter fencing to the homeowners.
The Aquatic Professionals Education Council, a lobbying group for the pool and spa trade, has battled similar legislation in prior years. It plans to fight the current bills, especially considering the CPSC has yet to issue a residential interpretation of the VGB Act.
“If it goes to residential, it gives pool companies some business in the short-run, but the problem is, in the long run, we’re seeing pools and spas that are shut down and filled in,” said Kevin Tucker, public information officer of the Austin, Texas, group. “If you really want to solve the drowning problem, you start by teaching kids to swim and by teaching adults water safety.”
A bill requiring enforcement of the VGB Act for commercial pools hadn’t been introduced as of press time, and the policy could be left in the hands of the state health department.
Las Vegas pools stay closed
Hundreds of pools in Las Vegas that have been retrofitted to comply with the VGB Act now are being forced to wait for a backlogged inspection process before reopening. The Southern Nevada Health District is months behind in its inspection process, compelling the agency to consider alternative strategies to expedite the process.
“[We just ask] that they be consistent and we all come to agreement on where we’re going to go,” said Terry Mayfield, regional manager of APSP’s Southwest Region. “Last I heard, there are approximately 5,000 public pools in southern Nevada, and it’s a daunting task to have the health district go in and validate each one of those as being Virginia Graeme Baker compliant.”
One recommended solution would require each operator to submit a permit application and sign a document verifying they understand the VGB Act and will become compliant with federal law.
The Health District would reserve the right to inspect the pools at a later date and shut them down if anything is out of code.