North Carolina pools are currently operating in a period of flux as the state undergoes residential and commercial code changes.

Pool professionals expect the state codes will eventually sync up with both the ANSI/APSP-7 Suction Entrapment Standard and the federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. But, in the meantime, commercial operators must plug all skimmer equalizer lines and residential builders must install an SVRS on all suction lines in new pools.

“Working with distributors and manufacturers, we’ve really tried to get everyone in North Carolina acclimated and familiar with this [process],” said Wendy Purser, who heads the state’s advocacy efforts for APSP Region 10 out of Hampstead, N.C.

Although the North Carolina state government doesn’t have the power to enforce the new federal safety mandate, it is working to ensure safety from suction entrapment. Since approved covers for skimmer equalizers are still unavailable, the state is asking commercial pool operators to plug them.

“We feel the federal mandate trumps what we need out of those equalizers,” explained Jim Hayes, who supervises the pool program at the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources. “We’ve just made a policy that we’re not going to prevent those pools from operating.”

With the equalizers disabled, pool pumps are now at risk of losing prime, but safety is of more importance, Hayes adds.

The state currently is drafting new pool rules to allow it to enforce the federal act, and could also require automatic pool fillers or below-ground pumps if approved equalizer covers are not made available. The new rules should be finalized in the summer and adopted in the fall, with enforcement ready by the 2010 season.

“It’s a deliberately lengthy process so all the politicians have a chance to get their mitts on it,” Hayes said.

Changes to the state’s residential building code also will take some time. Purser submitted recommendations last summer that the code conform to ANSI/APSP-7 guidelines, but the language had to go through a number of committees and peer review groups.

“It’s going to be voted on in March, and we feel for certain it’s going to be passed,” Purser said.

The changes will allow dual main drain pools to be built without the need for separate SVRS devices. Although the amendments will not pass in time to be included in the actual 2009 code book, they will be made available on the APSP and building code council’s Web site, according to Purser.

“Every pool builder would like to have one set of rules to follow … I like to call it a transition period toward a wonderful end,” she added.