In the last several years, the federal government has been playing
a larger role in aquatic rules and regulations.
Today’s operators must understand how these federal laws and
guidelines apply to their facilities or risk liability.
As you prepare for the new swim season, here’s a look at
three major federal edicts and what they mean to you.
1. Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA set
minimum standards for newly constructed and existing swimming
pools, wading pools and spas to make them accessible to people with
disabilities. The Department of Justice is the federal agency
charged with enforcing the ADA. These requirements went into effect
March 15, 2012.
All public entities, schools and municipalities are required to
meet ADA guidelines. This includes public accommodation facilities
such as hotels, bed and breakfasts, time shares, and vacation homes
that operate as hotels.
Though the ADA does not affect private or residential property, it
could still be considered a public accommodation if it allows
members and nonresidents use of the facility. Condominiums and
homeowners associations may have to comply with the ADA if units
are rented and availability is advertised.
Private clubs (those with restrictive memberships) typically are
not required to comply with ADA. However, if the pool is open to
nonmembers, then they must comply. States may be more stringent if
they so choose.
The standards establish two categories of pools: Large pools with
more than 300 linear feet of pool wall require two accessible means
of entry — either pool lifts or sloped entries.
Smaller pools require one accessible means of entry — either
a pool lift or a sloped entry.
Effective March 15, all existing or newly constructed facilities
must comply with the 2010 ADA standards. On this date, anyone can
file a complaint or lawsuit if they think a facility should have
accessibility and it does not.
In most localities, any new construction or building modification
will not receive a certificate of occupancy without meeting ADA
requirements. States may adopt the latest guidelines into their
local codes if they choose. For further information, contact the
ADA information line at 800.514.0301.
2. Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety
Act. As of December 19, 2008, all operating public pools
and spas must have suction outlet covers that meet the ANSI/ASME
A112.19.8 (2007) standard, or any successor standard. On July 27,
2011, the Consumer Product Safety Commission unanimously approved
ANSI/APSP 16-2011 as the successor suction outlet cover standard,
which pool operators need to follow be in compliance with the VGB
Act. This standard is virtually identical to ANSI/ASME A112.19.8
and its two addenda.
In addition to the suction outlet cover requirement, if the pool
has a single suction outlet (other than an unblockable suction
outlet), the operator must install a second anti-entrapment device
or system. A secondary system can be an automatic pump shut-off
system, gravity drainage system, safety vacuum release system
(SVRS), or a suction-limiting vent system. The operator also can
disable the drain, taking into consideration the pool’s
filtration system and the regulations within the particular
If a pool has dual or multiple suction outlets (per pump) that are
separated by at least 3 feet or located on different planes, it may
be exempt from the secondary backup device or system
In September 2011, CPSC revoked the April 2010 interpretation of an
unblockable drain. As a result, an unblockable suction outlet cover
can no longer be used to convert a blockable suction outlet to an
unblockable suction outlet. A single suction outlet of a blockable
size must be equipped with a secondary anti-entrapment device or
If the pool has an unblockable-sized drain cover installed over a
blockable-sized drain/suction outlet, one of the approved secondary
anti-entrapment devices or systems needs to be added in order to be
in compliance with the current interpretations.
CPSC has set a compliance date of May 28, 2012.
3. Model Aquatic Health Code. Since 1978, the
number of recreational water-associated waterborne disease
outbreaks reported annually has increased dramatically. Public
health investigations have revealed that many of these diseases can
be prevented by proper maintenance and water treatment, and more
modern disease prevention practices.
The MAHC is intended to serve as a tool for local and state
agencies interested in adopting or revising public health laws
related to the prevention of illness and injury associated with
recreational water. It is the state and local environmental public
health agencies that are best suited to respond to the health and
safety needs and prevent outbreaks at aquatics facilities.
The MAHC is the product of a collaborative effort between the
Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention and dozens of expert volunteers in
recreational water health and safety. These experts were drawn from
a wide variety of stakeholders, including the federal government,
state and local health departments, manufacturers, industry,
operators, academia, certification organizations, and nonprofit
By adopting the MAHC, state and local governments will modernize
their outdated, antiquated policies, ensuring less drowning, fewer
injuries, lessened chemical exposures, and fewer
hospitalizations, and calls to paramedics. Owners and operators
will reduce their legal exposure from injuries at their facilities,
and possibly lower their insurance costs by having trained
The MAHC is a tool that state and local agencies can use to update
their own codes, should they choose to do so, but carries no
regulatory authority. Jurisdictions are not required to adopt the
MAHC. It is not a federal law like ADA or the VGB Act.
Jurisdictions can adopt it entirely, parts of it, or decide not to
adopt it at all.
Even if a jurisdiction does not adopt the MAHC, it likely will
become the de facto standard of care for the aquatics
industry. If a facility follows the MAHC, it provides an
affirmative defense, indicating that the facility is meeting the
foremost standard of care. Adoption of the MAHC by states and local
governments helps the aquatics industry and communities by
providing a preventive standard that precludes waterborne disease
outbreaks, leads to fewer injuries and ultimately less liability.
Read more on the MAHC modules