Friday is the deadline for public swimming pools and hot tubs to meet new federal safety guidelines.
Last year, Congress passed a law requiring new hump-shaped drain covers be installed to prevent young children from being sucked to the bottom of the pool. Pool and spa operators had one year to comply and to get rid of the flat drain covers, which are more conducive to holding the child underwater.
Thousands of public swimming pools and hot tubs may have to be closed Saturday, unless they comply.
Children and Pools
Powerful suction is strong enough to hold the child in the bottom of the pool.
It happened to six-year-old Abigail Taylor of Omaha. The pull was so strong, it ripped out part of her intestinal tract. A three-organ operation was not enough to save her, according to KPTN television.
With her parents help, Congress passed the new safety bill.
And it was the very public tragic drowning in 2002 of Virginia Graeme Baker, granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker, for whom the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act is named. Even with adults trying to pry her off of the powerful suction of a spa drain, she drowned.
Al Korn, of the nonprofit group Safe Kids Worldwide, says that between 1985 and 2004, there were 33 deaths of children under the age of 14.
The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that for each drowning there are up to four more children who nearly drown. Some are seriously injured enough to require hospitalization. Many are permanently disabled.
Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for children under the age of 14, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
A child can drown in as little as one inch of water. They can lose consciousness in two minutes, and have irreversible brain damage in four to six minutes.
Many in the pool industry feel that with multiple-drain pools, there is not the same intense pull as with a single drain. Most drownings occur in single drain pools.
And it doesn’t matter if a pool has large multiple-drains that are not connected directly to the pump. All of the pools, newer, municipal, hotel, must change their drains to the newer hump-shaped drain covers by Friday.
There may be no way to actually enforce the law. Nancy Nord of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), says that Congress did not give her agency the $7 million it needed to enforce the law.
States will be expected to pick up the slack. At a cost of $1,000 to $15,000 per pool, including installation, that may present too heavy a financial burden for local government. In addition, pools with a single drain will be required to install a second drain system, or an external shut-off.
Another complication - some drain cover sizes are reportedly not yet available.
There were a reported 8.6 million pools and 5.6 million hot tubs in the U.S. in 2006.
The National Swimming Pool Foundation, a nonprofit group, estimates that the majority, about 80 percent of 300,000 public pools are not in compliance with the new rules. The rules do not apply to existing hot tubs, but do apply to new portable hot tubs sold for backyard use.
Hot tub manufacturers have asked the CPSC for an exemption, arguing that they cannot build their spas to meet the new requirements.
The CPSC recommends that to eliminate the drain entrapment hazard in pools and spas, pool owners should disable the old drains or build new pools without any drains and use gutters, overflows and/or skimmers to provide water to the pump. #