Pop the champagne and start counting down, 2010 is
almost over and it’s time to start looking ahead.
While high temperatures and record attendance had many pool
operators cheering, several negative aquatics-related
stories made big headlines that have been anything but
cause for celebration.
It started last spring when a lawsuit was filed against
USA Swimming on behalf of a teenage girl from Northern
California. The lawsuit claims the girl was sexually abused
by her coach Andrew King (now serving 40 years in prison
for molesting a number of young swimmers over the past
several decades) and accuses USA Swimming of virtually
ignoring a “culture of abuse” among
In early August, an Associated Press article featured
the parents of two entrapment victims who stated that the
industry was working to weaken the VGB Act. Nancy Baker,
mother of Virginia Graeme Baker, and Karen Cohn, mother of
Zachary Archer Cohn, discussed their drowning prevention
Cohn expressed discontent with VGB’s
implementation, specifically the Consumer Product Safety
Commission’s March interpretation of the law
regarding unblockable drains. The agency voted to classify
certain drains as unblockable regardless of sump size. A
pool with an unblockable drain is not required to have a
backup device such a safety vacuum release system.
“The laws are trying to be rolled back by the
pool industry,” Cohn told AP, “and we
really want to make sure that we’re here to
protect the children.”
That decision also sparked protest from nine members of
the House and Senate, including the law’s
author,Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).
Also in August, ABC News published a story stating that
it had obtained a confidential industry study that
“warns that popular drain covers found in millions
of backyard and public US pools have been incorrectly
tested and that their use could ‘result in serious
injury or deaths.’” As a result, an
investigation by CPSC is ongoing.
In September, news coverage turned to texting lifeguards
and cancer. Several stories, including a piece in The New
York Times, investigated the issue of lifeguards seen
sending text messages on the job. A number of stories
quoted Bernard J. Fisher II, director of health and safety
for the American Lifeguard Association who indicated that
he’s seen a sharp increase in complaints about the
issue. The ALA is a privately owned educational association
that provides training.
Toward the end of the month, a number of news outlets
reported on a series of studies on swimming pool
disinfection byproducts and their effect on health.
Although more research is needed, headlines highlighted
links to cancer and respiratory issues.
“The reality is, bad press should be expected
since people can and do become injured or die when they are
using our products; we as an industry still have a lot to
learn to resolve some of the critical issues that plague
us,” said Laurie Batter, a longtime industry
public relations leader and founder of BatterUp!
Productions. “Providing consumers with a balanced
approach to the problem and the solution is the best way to
keep people from being afraid and staying away. We will
invite and create more positive messaging if everyone in
our industry reaches for the highest standards, takes
personal responsibility and is invested personally in doing