With only about a month or so left until the Dec. 19 deadline in the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, experts say several issues could pose difficulties in widespread compliance, including a lack of approved covers and enforcement authority.

Still, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, charged with interpreting the law, is standing firm. ?Every public pool owner/ operator needs to be in compliance,? spokesman Scott Wolfson said.

To make that happen, CPSC officials and industry experts are working to eliminate lingering confusion and solve issues threatening to complicate compliance.

According to an official CPSC interpretation:

  • All public pools must be equipped with drain covers that meet the ASME/ANSI A112.19.8 Standard
  • Every pool with single main drains per pump other than unblockable drains must install a second entrapment barrier. This may consist of the following systems: safety vacuum release; suction limiting vent; gravity drainage; automatic pump shut-off; drain disablement; or another type ?determined by the commission to be equally effective.?

But, as of press time, meeting those requirements may be a challenge, said Tom Lachocki, Ph.D., CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation, particularly for those overseeing older facilities.
Lachocki and Wolfson see several outstanding issues.

?To comply, drain covers must be paired with the sump beneath,? Lachocki said.

This means many operators may be forced to tear up their pools to replace the sumps, which can be costly and time-consuming. Further complicating matters is the fact that additional work may be required if a facility is older and other codes, for example a particular ADA regulation, are not met.

Wolfson said another difficulty is the fact that at present no approved covers are available for all drains. He expects manufacturers will be bringing more approved products to the marketplace soon, but questions remain over the extraordinarily large grates in many large pools. Those grates can?t be currently tested for approval, and CPSC is reassessing the drain cover requirement for those pools.

For now, NSPF and CPSC officials are urging operators to communicate compliance issues.

?Now is the time to provide a universal response, and CPSC is requesting it, ? Lachocki said.

Ultimately, concerns over compliance may be moot unless all operators and inspectors are fully aware of the federal law.

?The concern is smaller hotel/motel type pools and apartment complexes,? said Scott Runkle, aquatics/safety supervisor of the Skokie Park district, Skokie Ill., and president of the National Recreation and Parks Association Aquatics Branch.

Paul Sisson, environmental engineer specialist at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, also has concerns about information flow. He?s working with NSPF and has sent information to all of its approximately 6,000 public pools. But, he said, ?I?m sure there are states out there [that may not have the regulatory system for pools we have ] that haven?t received any communication.?

To date, CPSC has not provided any directive or authority to health departments as to how to proceed with enforcement, Sisson said.

Until CPSC issues formal enforcement authority to state health agencies, he said Michigan will continue informing operators of the legislation and note whether they are in compliance, but no pools will be shut down.