You’ve spent countless hours attending to the needs of your patrons — ensuring good times
as they careen down huge water slides, splash in gigantic wave
pools or methodically execute their workouts. You make sure the
water isn’t too cold for the early-morning water aerobics
class, or that tenants or hotel guests aren’t complaining
about elevated chlorine levels.
While you take pool safety very seriously and pay close attention to detail, you may not realize that the deadline for compliance
with some of the most significant pool and spa safety legislation in U.S. history is rapidly approaching.
Last December, the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act was signed into law to help prevent drowning and
entrapment deaths and injuries in commercial pools — making Dec. 19, 2008, the deadline for compliance. Whether you manage a
huge waterpark or an aquatics facility with an Olympic-size pool
— or are the owner/operator of a tiny bed and breakfast
— time is running out.
Failure to comply has consequences. Not only do you risk your pool being closed, but willful noncompliance also may result in civil and criminal penalties, including imprisonment and fines up to $1.8
million. Fortunately, products are available to quickly and cost-effectively bring most pools into compliance.
Many facilities will need to start with drain covers. The drain
covers (suction outlet) on pools, spas, and wading or diving pools
at your facility will need to be replaced with ones that meet the
very specific requirements of the ASME/ANSI A112.19.8-2007. That is
the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the American National Standards
Institute (ANSI). Drain covers tested and listed to the
ASME/ANSI A112.19.8-2007 Standard for suction fittings for use in
swimming pools, wading pools, spas and hot tubs are compliant with
the federal Pool and Spa Safety Act. The “2007” is
crucially important because that is the most recent standard
referenced by the Act. Drain covers were not approved and available
for sale before mid-2008.
You must identify manufacturers, size and rated flow of your
existing drains and drain covers. With the manufacturers
identified, confirm the appropriate replacement drain covers on the
manufacturers’ Website. Suction outlets and covers are
available in a range of shapes and sizes that will meet the
requirements of most public pools and spas.
If you have a sump-type drain, make sure you can retrofit the
appropriate drain cover or you’ll have to replace the entire
unit with one that is listed. You might consider using a certified
diver to inspect and replace your drain cover or suction
Once installed, check the drain covers for loose screws or damage
on a regular basis. Approved drain covers are embossed with a rated
life, typically seven years. Its scheduled replacement should be
recorded in a conspicuous place.
After you’ve identified the drain covers and made or
scheduled the appropriate replacements, your next course of action
will be determined by the suction plumbing configurations, and the
quantity and type of drain(s). You should be focused on single main
drains supplying a pump. Multiple drains, each connected to a
dedicated pump, are each considered single drains. Drains with
centers located within 3 feet of each other, are considered a
single drain. Skimmers or skim gutters are not considered a second
Unblockable drains will prevent a human body from being entrapped
by suction. An unblockable drain is a suction outlet designed so
that a torso 18-inches-by-23-inches could not block the outlet.
These drains have a diagonal measure of 29 inches or more and are
tested using the procedures in ASME/ANSI A112.19.8. They may stand
on their own as a single drain, but still must be certified for UV
testing; maximum flow rate; strength testing; and hair limb and
Pools or spas with multiple, adequately spaced drains supplying
each pump are compliant. Dual/multiple drains must be at least 3
feet apart, measured from the center of one drain cover to the
center of the other drain cover. Because the plumbing connecting
the multiple suction outlets and the pump are important for proper
operation, the U.S.Consumer Product Safety Commission states that the installation
should be certified by a design professional and inspected by a
licensed inspector to ensure hydraulic balance between outlets and
the main suction line to the pumps.
However, if you have a single main drain at the bottom of your
pool, as is the case with many older pools, at least one or more of
the following additional anti-entrapment devices or systems may be
1. Safety vacuum release system (SVRS). It ceases operation
of the pump, reverses the circulation flow or provides a vacuum
release at a suction outlet when a blockage is detected.
SVRS’s must be tested by an independent third party and
conform to ASME/ANSI Standard A112.19.17 or ASTM Standard F2387.
These products are designed and manufactured for easy installation
on new or existing installations.
2. Suction-limiting vent system. Also called an atmospheric
vent, this system introduces air into the suction line, thus
causing the pump to lose prime and reduce the suction force at the
main drain in the event of a suction line blockage. Generally
installed during construction, the correct design and construction
of the suction-limiting vent system should be certified by a design
professional and inspected by a licensed inspector.
3. Gravity drainage system. This device, also referred to as
a reservoir, surge tank or surge pit, uses a collector tank with a
separate water storage vessel from which the pump draws water.
Water moves from the pool to the tank due to atmospheric pressure,
limiting drain suction forces. Typical in Florida and commonly used
for skim gutters, gravity drainage systems most often are installed
at the time of construction.
4. Automatic pump shut-off system. A device that senses a
drain blockage and shuts off the pump system. Some SVRS devices may
meet this definition.
5. Drain disablement. The CPSC is unaware of any product
currently available as a drain disablement system. If the
circulation system is designed to work effectively without the main
drain(s), you can fill the sump with concrete or permanently
disable the suction line from the drain to the pump.
While any of the above may work, significant downtime and a costly
reconstruction of the plumbing and/or pool is required for some
options. As it stands, the quickest and most cost-effective way to
retrofit your pool may be to use an SVRS. Most can be installed and
activated in one to three hours by a trained installer.
As with the drain covers and suction outlets, when considering an
SVRS, make sure the device meets or exceeds all relevant ASME/ANSI
performance standards. Confirm that your SVRS selection is
compatible with the higher pump horsepowers common for many public
pools. Consider requirements for manual or automatic resetting in
the event the SVRS is activated when a change in suction pressure
is detected. Systems are available with manual restart or automatic
restart in protection mode. Only brief interruptions in water
circulation may be tolerated by local health departments, and
extended operation of pool pumps without water flow may void pump
Study your options by visiting manufacturers’ Web sites. All
information presented in this summary is, of necessity, general in
nature and not intended as a recommendation or prescription in any
specific circumstances. If you are unsure which type of drain cover
you require or need advice on the compliancy of your current drain
system, consult your pool service technician. They can examine your
facility and identify the best retrofit options for your
application, but the time to act is now.
For public pools that remain open through the winter, the Dec. 19
deadline is looming. Manufacturer, distributor and installer
capacity may not satisfy demand if everyone waits for December.
Likewise, the 2009 pre-Memorial Day onslaught for summer public
pools will coincide with peak demands of the regular season.
Review your facility’s pools and spas, and schedule
improvements before inspection is imminent. Remember, failure to
comply has serious consequences.