Monday, December 22, 2008

The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act (A112.19.8-2007) is now in effect. This is a new federal law that is designed to make pool drains safer. First off, it applies to all new drain covers sold -- commercial or residential. All approved covers will have "(ASME/ANSI A112.19.8-2007)" stamped on the exposed side of the cover. Secondly, the law also has more stringent criteria for commercial pools (this includes apartment, condominum, and home owner association pools). Basically the law requires some sort of back up safety device called a Safety Vacuum Release System (SVRS).

This back up device can be either a large "unblockable" drain, a second drain three feet or more away from the first drain, or it can be a SVRS device that senses a possible entrapment and either shuts off the pump or vents the suction line. There are several of these add-on SVRS devices. The Hayward Stratum both momentarilly shuts off the pump and vents the suction line to eliminate any residual suction. The VacAlert vents the line until it is manually reset, but the pump stays on (this could cause the pump to run dry). The Stingil and the Intelliflo VS=SVRS both shut off the pump if they sense an entrapment possibility.

There is much confusion regarding local implementation of this law. Local health and building departments have much latitude here. Be sure to contact them before making any expensive changes. Some localities such as Los Angeles County require you to drain the pool, so that they can inspect the cover and drain to make sure that it is compliant. Several proactive companies hired scuba divers to replace covers. These pools may now need to be drained and inspected.

Be sure to ask about inspection fees too. There is currently very little money dedicated to enforcement and localities are paying for it out of the inspection fees they charge.

Since enforcement will likely be hit and miss, much of compliance is left up to the property management company. Just as companies buy insurance to protect themselves against liability, an SVRS is also good liability insurance. The loss of a life in a pool that lacks this extra layer of protection would be disasterous in terms of the human loss and it could mean financial ruin for the property management companies and owners who are responsible.