Feature Article - July 2009
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Water Hazard

Managing Aquatic Risk

By Daniel Margolis

Another issue commercial pools face is that part of act requires that drains must be compliant to a new ASME/ANSI standard, and that standard requires testing not only of body, hair, and finger and limb entrapment, but of a drain's UV reliability. Here, the comparatively larger size of a drain in a commercial pool puts it at a disadvantage, as they may be more likely to suffer from deflection.

Another problem is that some information that the act now requires to determine compliance would have only been available or known when the pool was originally built.

"Short of getting cameras that we can put through these pipes, how do we determine if the contractor installed piping so that it's hydraulically balanced to meet the ASME standard for field-built sumps?" Berkshire asked. "Are you going to dig up, sawcut and chop up the floor and rerun piping, in which case you're going to damage the plaster finish of the pool, so you're going to have to replaster and retile the pool to be able to comply?"

Yet another potential problem is the fact that the act mandates that every public pool must comply with the current ASME/ANSI standard or any subsequent standard. "So if the standard changes in two years, the way this law is written, every public pool would have to go back and change again to comply with the new standard."

According to Berkshire, for some facilities, compliance with the act may not be possible without a major renovation. "In general, everyone is supportive and concerned, and we want to make sure that [pools are] safe and healthy for the public," he said. "But we've had a lot of state laws and codes that had drain requirements to make sure of that, and we've met the major portions of that standard previously. If you're doing a major renovation, absolutely you're going to comply, but until then we're not going to shut pools down that aren't in compliance."

National Swimming Pool Foundation CEO Tom Lachocki agreed, and pointed out that the closing of pools previously deemed safe may actually increase drowning rates, as it could potentially push people toward unsafe swimming situations. "It's a good law and good intent, the challenge we have is that the implementation conflicts with the intent," he said. "The intent of the law as I read it is preventative, not to punish."

There's no way to tell how many pools are in or out of compliance at this point, but anecdotal evidence does suggest that many pools have voluntarily shut down until they can come into compliance.