Concern has arisen over a provision in one section of the Model Aquatic Health Code that’s now up for public comment. The concern is over a MAHC stipulation requiring a minimum depth under starting blocks of 6 feet and 7 inches for a distance of 20 feet.

The provision appears in the Facility Design & Construction Module and some say that guidance could have a dangerous impact on competitive swimming programs.

“Changing the industry standard for starting block water depth to 6 feet 7 inches needs to be based on solid data that does not exist,” said Scot Hunsaker. “This proposed change is based upon speculation that may end with significant unintended negative consequences impacting the health benefits of swimming.”

Chief operating officer of St. Louis-based Counsilman-Hunsaker, he raised concerns in a blog post recently, noting that several governing bodies — including FINA, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and USA Swimming — have different requirements.

Others suggest a more gradual approach to changing depth requirements. “… It should be a point of concern for the competitive swimming community. I would suggest that if they keep the rule it should be for new construction. They should grandfather in the old but require additional training and supervision over practice times. In the old days we landed to flat on the water surface that we did not go more than a foot beneath the surface. The new ways regularly take swimmers down to four feet of depth. I think this issue is important and could be handled with a combination of construction standards and training policy,” said John Whitmore a long-time aquatics professional with the city of Denton, Texas, via the Aquatics International LinkedIn page.

Most notably, Hunsaker stated that all deep water would limit the use of the pool, essentially excluding therapy, recreational use, and programming for small children. He indicated that “to renovate a six lane 25 yard pool from a maximum water depth of 4 feet to 6 feet 7 inches for a distance of 20 feet in front of the pool edge is estimated to be in the $200,000 range.”

The module is open for public comment through Oct. 14, 2012. It was developed by a technical committee that includes a range of industry professionals. The committee is led by Carl Nylander, also with Counsilman-Hunsaker.

“We’re interested in the public comments and any [supporting] data,” said Doug Sackett, assistant director of the New York State Health Department and director of the Centers for Disease Control-initiated MAHC project. “We’ll be responding to the [comments] and determining if any changes should be made.”

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