It’s been just over three months since the industry’s largest-ever product recall, and enforcement issues are surfacing.      

Operators across the country are being asked to identify and replace what amounts to hundreds of thousands of drain covers deemed potentially hazardous by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in late May.

But according to officials, many local and state health departments have little authority to carry out the CPSC’s recommendation that facilities be closed until recalled covers are replaced.      

The CPSC’s 100 or so field staffers, as well as local and state health agencies they’ve contracted, are actively checking public vessels for compliance with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, and now replacement covers, said public affairs specialist Kathleen Reilly. But these aren’t dedicated inspectors, and they’re also charged with verifying the safety of a number of other consumer products.

Ultimately, much like VGB enforcement, it comes down to the fact that there’s no mandate to require compliance with the recall if states don’t have identical laws.

In Nevada, Valerie Hirata said, “We can let a facility know it had a recalled cover, but we can’t close that body of water.” That’s because the state has regulations calling for anti-vortex covers on public pool and spa drains, but has not adopted additional rules mirroring the federal law.

“If I were to force someone to comply with the recall, for instance, they could simply pull me into court and point to the law I’m supposed to enforce,” added Hirata, who is environmental health specialist at the Southern Nevada Health District in Las Vegas. “So, really, the onus is on the owner to close the pool if it doesn’t meet VGB.”   

It’s much the same in Ohio, where state Department of Health officials have posted information on the recall online, and notified local health departments. It is now up to those offices to determine how to proceed, said Jennifer House, public information officer at the ODH.

“They would be considered critical violations,” House added of pools or spas that contain the recalled covers. “But we haven’t issued further guidance or a length of time in which to address the situation.”

Meanwhile, health officials in Riverside County (Calif.) know that many of the 7,400 public pools and spas they oversee were fitted with the recalled covers. But like its counterparts in Nevada and Ohio, the Riverside County Department of Environmental Health also has focused on notification rather than enforcement. The agency posted a bulletin on its Web site and issued additional notification to all permitted swimming pool and spa operators through the mail and on inspection reports.

“Of course, we are not allowing the recalled covers on new installations now,” said Keith Jones, the department’s deputy director.