In the future, code-compliant drain covers may be hard to find in Florida.

Drains that are approved by recent federal regulations may not pass muster in the Sunshine State. The issue is a difference in allowable flow rates designed to prevent hair-entrapment.

Officials from the Florida Department of Health are re-rating drain covers to allow a maximum water velocity of 1.5 feet per second. However, in some cases that drastically reduces the flow-rate rating calculated through the ASME/ANSI-A112.19.8-2007 standard, which is mandated by the Virginia Graeme Baker Safety Act.

“Some of the [models] we’ve seen [allow] 6- and 7 feet per second across the drain, and they may have passed the ASME hair entanglement test, but we’re not comfortable with them,” said Bob Vincent, an environmental administrator at the Florida Department of Health.

To re-rate these covers, the health department takes the open surface area on each cover and multiplies it by 4.7 to find the product’s new maximum flow rate. This means drain covers that were previously rated for 125 gpm by ASME/ANSI’s 2007 standard can be re-evaluated at less than 40 gpm.

Some believe the 1.5 feet per second maximum is an antiquated standard that was useful before laboratories implemented hair entanglement tests as part of the new ASME/ANSI standard. The new drain covers now are rated with more precision, said Steve Barnes, product manager of safety and compliance at Pentair Water Pool and Spa in Sanford, N.C.

“The testing labs know with certainty [at what point] any grate is going to entrap hair, which results in a flow-rate number based on physical tests,” said Barnes, who also chairs the APSP Technical Committee. “[The Florida health department] ought to let it go.”

Florida also is encouraging covers with larger surface areas to ensure that retrofits don’t interrupt the operation of gravity-feed systems, which are installed on 30,000 of the state’s 37,000 commercial pools.

Though Florida is not alone in requiring lower flow rates, it appears to be the only state taking additional measures to re-rate covers.

To ensure compliance, the health department is mandating that every pool operator who replaces a drain cover submit a signed statement to a county health office or regional engineer with cover specifications.

The Florida requirements phase out many compliant covers that were designed with less open surface area. Nevertheless, a number of manufacturers intend to bring fully compliant covers to market by mid-November.

For its part, the Florida Swimming Pool Association is taking a neutral position, with the primary goal of ensuring all members can install compliant covers.

“If the manufacturers are coming out with drain covers that meet both the federal requirements and our state regulations, we’re happy,” said Jennifer Hatfield, FSPA’s director of government and public affairs. “If they’re not, we want to work with the CPSC or the department of health to find a solution.”