Controversial figure Paul Pennington has left Vac-Alert, the Santa Rosa, Calif.-based manufacturer of safety vacuum release systems.
Pennington joined the company in 2000, and served as its president. He will now dedicate his time to the Pool Safety Council, the advocacy group he founded.
“While it is a difficult decision to step away from my duties at Vac-Alert, pool safety advocacy is an incredibly important component of my life,” Pennington said in a press release. “Dedicating myself to PSC will allow me to help guide the group’s efforts full time.”
Pennington and the Pool Safety Council declined further comment.
Stepping in to take Pennington’s place at Vac-Alert is Vice President George Pellington. A civil sanitary engineer, Pellington has worked for chlorination and metering pump manufacturer Wallace & Tiernan, as well as for Hayward Industrial Products.
He started with Vac-Alert 10 years ago as a freelance engineer, playing a key role in developing the company’s technology.
Pellington said that under his direction, Vac-Alert will continue to participate in the writing of codes.
“We want to work closer and be more active with the industry in terms of developing these standards,” he said. “This whole idea of bather safety as it relates to suction entrapment is an evolving science in many ways, and we’re still learning and growing as an industry as to how best to resolve these things and still keep things open for new technology and product development.”
He also said he’d like the company to collaborate on education with organizations such as APSP.
During Pennington’s tenure with Vac-Alert, he gained notoriety in the industry.
In 2001, he backed a California bill that would have required SVRS’s on all pools. He helped lobby the International Code Council in 2003 to require the technology on all new pools, in addition to dual main drains. That requirement was changed in 2008.
These facts caused some in the industry to question whether Pennington’s motives revolved around profit for Vac-Alert.
In 2005, he founded the Pool Safety Consortium, a group that, among other things, advocated for the “third layer” of protection against entrapment. The organization changed its name to Pool Safety Council in 2008.
In much of his most recent advocacy work, Pennington has represented himself as part of the Pool Safety Council rather than Vac-Alert. In his PSC role, he testified before the Consumer Product Safety Commission last year, advocating for a tighter definition of unblockable drains.
As of late, he has broadened his public commentary to include overall pool safety, in addition to entrapment prevention.
Pellington, the new Vac-Alert president, believes that regardless of what may be seen in the pool and spa industry as an unpopular approach, Pennington’s efforts have resulted in safer pools.
“To some extent, not only Vac-Alert but other SVRS manufacturers have been kind of the grit that’s making the pearl,” Pellington said. “So to the industry, it may feel like an irritant, but if that irritant wasn’t there, in many ways, changes would not have occurred — changes for the better. I don’t look at it as antagonistic, but we will not be complacent, and we will not overlook the needs of the bathing public from a safety standpoint.”
Pellington said his predecessor is divesting himself from the firm.
“He will not [be involved with Vac-Alert], and whatever does happen will happen more on an informal basis,” Pellington said. “He’s also a friend, so if I need someone to bounce things off of, he’s there for that. But as far as his involvement in Vac-Alert? No.”