Pool Operators Slow To Comply With New Safety Law; Make Sure They Do

The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act—which requires filtration systems to have special safety covers—was named after a 7-year-old who was killed in 2002 when she was trapped at the bottom of a hot tub by “hundreds of pounds of suction force.” It’s not the sort of accident that happens frequently, but when it does it’s a grisly and horrific event. Unfortunately, despite the law being in effect since the middle of last month, and the fact that pool operators have known about it for over a year, CNN reports that many pools still haven’t been brought into compliance.

One problem is that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is tasked with enforcing the law, and as any regular reader here knows by now, the CPSC is chronically understaffed and in no way capable of directly fulfilling this obligation. CNN says the CPSC is relying on help from state and local agencies, but “some states and towns are being more lenient than others enforcing the law.” Riverside, California says it won’t enforce the law at all until a similar state law is passed.

A second alleged problem (CNN is really vague about hard numbers in their article) is that some of the approved drain covers are backordered.

What this all means is that pools in your town may or may not be in compliance yet. Some pools without drain covers are being allowed to remain open so long as they turn the drains off during pool use, while others are being shut down (sometimes at the request of insurance companies). Again, this is all very general info, so you’ll have to do some personal investigating at your own local pool to determine the status.

Scott Wolfson, a spokesman for the safety commission, said the agency that knows some pool operators have problems obtaining the drain covers and said it is focusing its efforts on the most high-risk pools, such as wading pools, kiddie pools and the shallow end of larger pools.

Wolfson said that ultimately, a pool owner will be held liable if there is an injury or a death at a pool lacking the proper drain covers.

Jeff Long, communications director for the Fox Valley Park District in Illinois, has been waiting for drain covers for the pools he oversees. But he hasn’t gotten them.

“It’s not a matter of us ignoring the law,” Long said, adding that many of the pools he oversees will remain open. “We obviously want to protect children, but what can we do if we can’t get the product we need to save them?”

Here’s a list from the CPSC of approved drain covers. The law applies to all pools with public access, but if you own a residential pool you can (and probably should) take the same precautions.

“Some ignore law to prevent pools from being child deathtraps” [CNN]
Approved Drain Covers [CPSC]
(Photo: lzaza2000)