Though Rola-Chem Corp. issued an advisory regarding certain models of its peristaltic pump chemical feeders, the company does not claim liability in a recent lawsuit and said its product is not defective.
However, at least some professionals remain concerned.
In 2008, two people received second-degree burns after using a spa
in a condominium complex. It was claimed that the chemical feeder,
produced by Rola-Chem, had been operating in the “on”
position, thereby dumping a large amount of chlorine into the small
body of water. A service technician also named in the lawsuit said
he had put the feeder in “timer” mode so the unit would
periodically inject a set dosage into the water. He alleged that a
defect must have caused it to change modes.
The case was settled, and Rola-Chem never made an admission of
liability. But some continued to believe there is a defect with the
product. The service firm’s attorney said he’d heard
anecdotal evidence of several such failures, while the insurance
carrier reported hearing of another similar incident, though it did
not escalate into a claim.
Last month, the St. Paul, Minn.-based manufacturer issued an
advisory letter stating the company had received a unit that was
more than 10 years old, with a compromised timer knob that caused
the feeder to operate in a continuous mode. The producer determined
the problem stemmed from excessive corrosion in the
Rola-Chem recommended that the timer/pot assemblies be switched
when a product reaches five years of age, unless it is managed by a
Professionals can receive free replacements by calling the
In the meantime, the letter continued, applicable feeders should be
set to dose the minimum necessary amount of chemical. Hooking the
feeder up to a controller also would solve the problem, a company
But one industry professional who has been following this situation
since the lawsuit disagrees with the manufacturer’s handling
of the issue. “I think their advisory falls far short ...
,” said Raymond Arouesty, president of Arrow
Insurance Service in Simi Valley, Calif., which covered the
service technician involved in the litigation. “The public is
at risk for serious injury when one of these feeders continues to
run in the ‘on’ position.
“I am deeply troubled that the manufacturer, rather than
recalling the product, wants pool service techs to replace the
switches, the age of which might not be readily known,” he
said. “I’m concerned that they’re attempting to
shift the responsibility for this issue to the service
But the advisory does not prove that there’s a pattern of
failures in the field, or that there is a product defect, said Mark
Lynch, Rola-Chem’s national sales manager. “Something
that’s been in the field for 10 years isn’t a defective
product — it’s just sort of a worn-out product,”
But the finding was an indirect result of the lawsuit.
Arouesty worried that other cases may arise, so he encouraged
service technicians to send failed Rola-Chem units to the producer.
The manufacturer has reported receiving approximately a half-dozen units.
“When we tested them, we learned that the corrosion in the
potentiometer would send a mixed signal to the timer, and it would
not perform in the timer mode,” Lynch said. The timers
themselves had not failed, he added. Though all the examined models
were at least 10 years old, the company chose to apply the advisory
to anything over five years to allow a window of time for repairs,
Rola-Chem is currently improving the potentiometers on future
feeders, but officials expect a few months to pass before they can
find a new supplier and receive approval from third-party testing
In addition to safety and liability, Arouesty raised the issue of
cost. “They’re giving away a free switch,” he
said. “Who’s supposed to pay for the burden of the
service tech’s time? This is not an issue that was caused by
the service tech.”