New Anti Drowning Safety Requirements

Posted on Dec 16, 2008
Tens of thousands of public swimming pools and hot tubs could be forced to close under a sweeping law designed to prevent drain suction from trapping children under water.

The rules apply to pools and spas used by the public, including municipal pools and those at hotels, private clubs, apartment buildings and community centers.

The improved drain systems were outlined in legislation passed by Congress a year ago. Pool and spa operators had a year to comply; Friday is the deadline for installing the new equipment.

Nancy Nord, acting chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, said Monday the agency will focus initially on public baby pools and wading pools, as well as in-ground spas that have flat drain grates on the bottom and just one drain system.

The issue received heightened attention after the 7-year-old granddaughter of former Secretary of State James A. Baker was sucked onto a spa drain in 2002. She drowned despite efforts to pry her off.

The National Swimming Pool Foundation, a nonprofit group in Colorado Springs, Colo., said about 80 percent of the 300,000 public pools and spas in the United States do not comply with the new rules and may have to close.

It said the cost of complying with the new law would range from $1,000 to $15,000 per pool. A variety of factors, including the availability of compliant drains and the workers to install them, determine the eventual price tag. Given current economic conditions, that's a potentially heavy financial burden for local governments.

Nord had no sense of how many pool and spa owners had installed the new equipment or how many might have to close. "We have limited resources and we don't have the resources to send federal safety inspectors to every single pool," Nord said.

At the same time, she said, her agency reserves the right to take action against violators.

The legislation bans the manufacture, sale or distribution of drain covers that don't meet anti-entrapment safety standards.

New models use a hump-shaped drain cover rather than the flat style that more easily attains suction with a child's body. Pools with just one drain also are required to install a second drain system, or external shut-off.