Swimming Pool Main Drain Safety: New Federal Law

In December 2007, a new federal law was passed it is called the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. This law that goes into effect on December 19,2008 will require new protection against the hazards of the main drain. There are new safety requirements that must be met by all water recreational facilities including public swimming pool. These new guidelines and regulations will be monitored by Washington State Department of Health and all local health jurisdictions.

The new law will require that all facilities will install new drain covered that meet with the current safety standards. Plus all public facilities with single swimming pool main drains must install additional entrapment prevention equipment that must also comply with the Federal Law. These new swimming pool drain covers are called anti-drowning drain covers because they will help prevent a child from drowning.

What does the Federal Law Require Of Pool Main Drains?

All main drains covers must meet with the ASME A112.19.8-2007. All covers that are on submerged suction outlets including and not limited to equalizer lines must also meet the ASME A112.19.8-2007. The Federal Law requires that the maximum velocity of the across drain may exceed 1.5 fps. All main drains must include a sump meeting dimensional and flow characteristics. All sumps need to provide a minimum distance between the bottom of the cover and the nearest location of the piping that comes into the sump. This must be equal to 1.5 times the diameter of the pipe or it must meet the minimum dimensions established by the cover’s manufacturer. The cover of the main drains must be secured to the sump.

On all Single Main Drains, these requirements must be met. All water facilities must have a safety Vacuum Release System in place, a Suction Limiting Vent System, a Gravity Drainage System, an Unblockable Drain, an Automatic shutoff without a vacuum release. These main drains must have a drain disablement without the main drain. If facilities have a manual shut off switch and an audible alarm, the Federal Law Systems decree that this is not acceptable. On Multiple Main Drains, all drains must be spaced less than 3 feet apart from the required additional entrapment prevention measurements. All multiple main drains will need a design analysis to assure the hydraulic balance. All of these requirements must be met by December 19, 2008. There may be additional state laws that you must follow so contact your local health jurisdiction to see if any extra steps must be taken.

How can I find the new required cover I will need?

Before you can purchase your new cover, you must provide the equipment manufacturer with some pool information. You must know the following information. You must know the maximum flow rate of the pool’s re-circulation system, you must also know the manufacturer and the model number on the existing system that you have and that includes the pump, motor, main drain cover and the sump.

You will also need to know the location of the main drain (either on the bottom of the pool or on the sidewall). You may have to provide a sketch of the existing drain sump with the dimensions that identify the overall sump size and what the shortest distance between the sump outlet.

Can I fill in the main drain?

The CPSC encourages the fill in of the main drain as the most effective way to prevent entrapment of the main drain. The idea that a pool without suction is a safe way to stop entrapment in the drain. But by covering or disabling the main drain you may have problems with the water circulation patterns in the pool, which may result in poor water quality. You should first consider the problems that you may before you decide to fill in the main drain.

What elements must the new Main Drain have?

All main drain covers must be tested by a national recognized testing laboratory such as the NSF- International or International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials and they must comply with the ASME112.19.8-2007 standard. The main drains must be rated for maximum flow of the re-circulation system. The new standard establishes a minimum design and performance criteria to address the potential for hair, limbs and body entrapment. They must also be consistent with their application and placement ratings. The use in the single drain or multiple drain application and the placement location. These units must be installed on an outlet sump that complies with the ASME A112.9.8-2007.

What happens if I cannot comply with the new law by December 19,2008?

The CPSC, which is the Federal Agency that is responsible for enforcing the law, will anticipate all owners and operators to comply with the new law as soon as the equipment is ready for installation. The CPSC may determine if a civil penalty or a criminal penalty on the facilities that do not comply. But the CPSC has said that they understand that changing or implementing new systems may take some time so they recommend the following.

  • Determine just what equipment is needed for your facility
  • Locate and obtain the necessary equipment meeting the new federal law
  • Obtain a plan review if required and
  • Arrange for installation by skilled personnel with knowledge of the ASME A112.19-8-2007 standard.

Once I comply how can I show my compliance with the law?

All facility operators and owners will have to keep all information available that will verify that the Federal Law has been met. Contact your local health jurisdiction for specific information they may require for proof.

The Federal Law and the CSPC agency enforcing the law cannot know all of the problems that may or may not occur. So they have designed a system to take care of the problems that they can anticipate. There may be some rule amendments in the future. These laws are designed to keep all recreational swimmers safe and to protect them against the hazards of the powerful main drains that exist in recreational and public swimming pools.