Aquatics professionals were left scrambling in the wake of a pre-Memorial Day weekend federal recall of approximately 1 million drain covers — and wondering about timing and cost of the action. The far-reaching recall, the largest in industry history, includes product from 10 different manufacturers.
The action affected “hundreds of thousands of pools,”
said Scott Wolfson, public affairs director for the Consumer
Product Safety Commission, which initiated the voluntary recall.
However, Wolfson said, “voluntary does not mean
Replacements or retrofits are mandatory on wading pools, kiddie
pools and spas. Also affected are single-drain pools that do not
have an unblockable drain, gravity feed system or drain covers
installed before Dec. 19, 2008. CPSC is advising that those
facilities be closed until retrofits or replacements can be
But confusion over which pools are affected apparently led some
cities to close all pools over the busy Memorial Day weekend. For
example, Jacksonville, Fla., delayed opening pools on the holiday
weekend over concern for the recall. Many such pools were later
However, some locations are enacting the recall further than its
intended scope. An official with the Texas Health Department
announced that all recalled drain covers in the state are to be
replaced, even those installed in dual-drain pools, which are
exempt from the requirement.
Connecticut’s health department also sent out a memo
directing its municipal pool operators to observe the recall, but
not outlining enforcement or deadlines.
The official recall states that pools deeper than 24 inches with
multiple-drain systems are not required to change out drain
“Months of scientific research and investigative work went
into determining that a recall was needed and determining which
pools and spas were most at risk of posing an entrapment hazard to
swimmers,” Wolfson said.
Depending on the model, recalls could involve replacement —
of just the cover or the entire drain assembly — or repair,
which could be as simple as snapping a new piece onto an existing
drain cover, as with Waterway Plastics’ retrofit.
The investigation came about after NSF International, one
independent testing laboratory certified to test product and
certify it as complying with the VGBA, claimed it had tested some
covers approved and rated by fellow lab International Association
of Mechanical Plumbing Officials and found that the products did
not perform as claimed. CPSC was directed to investigate the
As a result, certain drain-cover models from the following
manufacturers are part of the recall: A&A Manufacturing,
AquaStar Pool Products, Color Match Pool Fittings, Custom Molded
Products, Hayward Pool Products, Pentair Water Pool and Spa, Rising
Dragon Plastics and Waterway Plastics.
Drain covers from Lawson Aquatics and Paramount Pool and Spa
Systems also were included in the recall. However, those
manufacturers are “carrying out a corrective action
program” and are working directly with the customers
affected, Wolfson said. Links to manufacturers’ recall Web
pages as well as other recall information can be found at aquaticsintl.com/recall.
The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals is acting as a
spokesperson for seven of the eight manufacturers directly
involved. The companies working with the organization declined to
comment for this story.
CPSC said most manufacturers will pay for parts and labor, but each
has its own process, usually involving several steps. Additionally,
CPSC recommends that all professionals, whether installers
performing the repairs or the manufacturers providing the product,
should keep records of every drain cover replaced, along with the
pool or spa type, flow rating and model of the existing drain
cover. CPSC will be monitoring the recall and could ask for records
at any time, the agency warned.
But some industry professionals say they’re still waiting on
information to determine exactly what needs to be done to fulfill
obligations and comply with the recall — and who will pay for
work that may have to be done.
“We’re hoping for better direction from CPSC and
manufacturers. They put out the alarm and we’re all saying,
‘but now what?’” said Daryl Matzke, vice
president/ director of aquatics for Ramaker & Associates in
Sauk City, Wis.
Those with a recalled cover have been directed to contact the
manufacturer to receive a replacement or retrofit. However, it
appears that some manufacturers have the parts necessary to make
retrofits or replacements, while others are still ramping up
production. Wolfson admitted getting those parts and the labor
necessary to install them will be major hurdles.
Reaction from operators has been mixed, and some have closed their
One of our pools was affected,” said Joe Fabick, aquatic
supervisor, City of Dublin (Ohio) Recreation Services. “We
were not able to open it Memorial Day weekend and are still waiting
on the replacement covers.”
Kathy Fisher closed the spa at her facility when she discovered it
included a recalled cover. “We have ordered the replacement
covers directly. It was not easy getting through to [the
manufacturer], but when I was eventually able to reach someone, I
was able to place the order,” said Fisher, aquatic director,
West Morris (N.J.) Area YMCA. “The parts … still need
to be fabricated. [The manufacturer] claims they are four
weeks out. They will also reimburse us (up to a certain amount) to
have them installed and documented safe and compliant by a
reputable pool service professional.”
Fisher added that nationwide most YMCA pools will remain open and
“closing pools will be determined on a facility by facility
As in Ohio and New Jersey, pools in Raleigh, N.C., are also caught
in the recall, but they have not been closed.
“When we got the information about the recall, we also got an
email and letter from the state and local health departments. They
said they would get back to us, but our permits were still valid to
operate pools,” said Terri Stroupe, aquatic facilities &
program director, City of Raleigh Parks & Recreation
However, Stroupe added that per the North Carolina health code, all
facilities must be dual drain and the recall doesn’t pertain
to dual drain pools.
Still, “it’s frustrating,” she said. “If we
are all working together toward safety they should have given us a
head’s up that this was coming. According to the [CPSC] press
release, the manufacturers have retrofits available, so they knew
Operators who are still unsure if their pool has a recalled cover
should review their records, suggested Wolfson. An alternative
option is to contact the service company that installed the covers.
They should then immediately contact the manufacturer to schedule
replacement or retrofit.
Beyond whether or not replacement parts are available, is the
question of who is going to perform the work of installing new
covers. Wolfson said affected manufacturers are establishing which
service companies are approved to carry out the work.
Another question is exactly what will be paid for. According to
APSP, manufacturers will provide “reasonable
compensation” for the replacement of recalled drain covers,
but what qualifies as reasonable compensation is unclear.
“That is a decision left between the individual who has a
recalled drain cover and the manufacturer,” said Carvin
DiGiovanni, APSP senior director, standards and government
Some worry that could leave some operators footing the bill for
The recall has received nationwide media attention and prompted one
state attorney general to issue a warning to consumers.
“I strongly encourage parents to call their local pool
operators to ask two very important questions — if the pool
contains one of these dangerous drains and whether the facility
complies with safety standards,” said Illinois State Attorney
General Lisa Madigan in a public statement.
For it’s part, “CPSC views this as a very significant
announcement,” Wolfson said. “There is a zero death
rate for children in recent years related to drain entrapments. We
want to keep it that way.”
The agency has set up a Drain Cover Recall Hotline at 866.478.3521
and a dedicated Web page: www.apsp.org/draincoverrecall, and as of press time,
additional FAQs were forthcoming.
Rebecca Robledo contributed reporting to this article.