As the December deadline looms for compliance with the Virginia Graeme Baker Act, many pool operators remain unprepared for the new law.

Though smaller compliant covers have been on the market for several months, there are precious few options for commercial pools with large main drains.

“There are no 18-by-18’s or 24-by-24’s that have gone through the [approval] process,” said Steve Dunn, vice president of sales at Commercial Pool Systems in Martinez, Calif. “People are chomping at the bit to get those, but there’s nothing anyone can do.”

In accordance with the new act, drain covers must meet the new ASME/ANSI AS112.19.8-2007 standard, which is identified by a mark on the covers bearing either the standard number or “VGB 2008.”

The drain covers that are widely available are the 8- and 10-inch rounds, which don’t have a high enough flow rating for some of the bigger commercial pools. Meanwhile, distributors must wait for the larger covers, including the unblockable models, to pass testing and become available for shipping.

“The 12-by-12 is the big [need],” said Dan Welsh, branch manager at SCP in West Palm Beach, Fla. “Numbers aren’t even out for [the larger covers], so I can’t put them on order.”

Several major manufacturers were expecting to have larger drain covers available by mid-November, roughly a month before the compliance deadline of Dec. 19, 2008.

For its part, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has anticipated the difficulty in acquiring compliant covers and will enforce the act accordingly.

“We are not going to be an unreasonable, myopic federal agency,” said CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson. “We will do an assessment of what the marketplace holds [and see] what the feasibility is for people to truly be able to comply.”

CPSC will communicate its expectations for compliance in November and early December as larger drain covers become more available.

In the meantime, Wolfson encouraged pool operators to make good-faith efforts to comply with the federal mandate. That could include drain cover order forms or installing safety vacuum release systems (SVRS’s) on single main-drain pools.

While they wait for more products, distributors are busy swapping out older drain covers and spreading awareness about the law’s impending compliance date.

“We’re putting on seminars in some of our branches about the act, and we’re trying to do our part in educating our customers,” noted Mike Alessandri, vice president of operations at Ontario, Calif.-based Pool Electrical Products. “[All the manufacturers] have been good about updating our inventories on the distribution level.”