A new Federal safety law for pools and spas takes effect
The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act becomes a
law December 19 with the hope of protecting the public against accidental drowning.
act was started by former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III, and Safe Kids USA, after Baker’s seven-year-old
granddaughter drown because of a suction drain in a spa.
The act aims to enforce strict safety guidelines in pools
across the nation. Public pools and spas
must install safety equipment like a safety vacuum release system; which stops
suction on drains in the case of a blockage, or suction limiting vents.
All public pools are required to meet the criteria including
public free or fee, membership, apartment, and hotel pools.
County is hesitant to
enforce the act and has several concerns.
“The county is not penalizing any pools for not meeting the December
19 deadline,” said Bernard Franklin, Chief Environmental Health Specialist for L.A County.
feels that no one is going to be able to meet the deadline, but say that county
has established safety requirements much like the ones required in the Virginia
Franklin notes the fact that
the law requires that all wade pools to install what is known as a split drain,
but he says that L.ACounty has been requiring
these drains in all pools since 1985.
A split drain is when the main drain is split into two
parts. With two drains a complete blockage is impossible and eliminates the
possibility of someone becoming entrapped.
The county is requiring that all pools meet the guidelines,
but are not setting up a strict timetable.
They are only requiring their pools to add the safety equipment outlined
in the act when the pool is drained, because the cost and inconvenience is too
high, said Franklin.
According to Franklin
there have only been seven cases of entrapment nationwide in the last two years,
and those statistics are not high enough to force pools to close down.
“This is a federal guideline but L.A
County enforces state guidelines,”
Because the county is not enforcing the penalties for
failing to meet the safety standards many L.A County
facilities are ignoring the Federal Act.
Although the new law takes effect Friday, many facilities
are finding it difficult to comply with the safety requirements because, as one
local pool manager put it, “The [pool] industry isn’t keeping up with the requirements.”
The manager is referring to the fact that many pools are
trying to fulfill the safety requirements but either the type of drain isn’t
being produced, or there just aren’t enough of the safety components to meet
The Metropolitan YMCA of Southern California is trying to
upgrade the pools at its facilities but is running into the same problems that
many other pools are, there are not enough products to meet demands.
One way the YMCA is combating the lack of supplies is by
adjusting the pressure its drains use, according to Michael Kinal Executive V.P
of Capitol Projects for the YMCA.
The Santa Clarita YMCA is trying to comply with federal
standards but manufactures do not produce a drain cover large enough to fit
their drain. They are in compliance with all other health requirements.
One local pool contractor says that the cost to add a split
drain is steep. To help with the cost
the legislation allows for facilities to apply for grants from the Federal
Government to help with the cost of retrofitting pools.