New federal law has Sequim pool checking drains

A new federal law has operators of public swimming pools installing anti-drowning drain covers or facing the possibility of being shut down.

The law, outlined in legislation passed by Congress a year ago, aims to prevent drain suction from trapping children under water.

The issue received heightened attention after the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James A. Baker was sucked onto a spa drain and drowned in 2002.

Sue Jacobs, Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center director, said her staff recently installed brand new drain covers but that state health department officials want an inspection of each public pool.

Jacobs said they are on a waiting list with an engineer to confirm that SARC's new drain covers meet the new standard.

Since SARC staff is making efforts toward the new code, Jacobs said the center's pool may remain open. Public pools had a Dec. 19 deadline for approved drain covers.

The law applies to pools and spas used by the public, including city pools and those at hotels, private clubs, apartment buildings and community centers.

The National Swimming Pool Foundation, a nonprofit group in Colorado Springs, Colo., said about 80 percent of the 300,000 public pools and spas in the United States do not comply with the new rules and may have to close. The agency is asking congress to delay the Dec. 19 deadline.

The legislation bans the manufacture, sale or distribution of drain covers that don't meet anti-entrapment safety standards.

New models use a concave-shaped drain cover rather than the flat style that more easily attains suction with a child's body. Pools with just one drain also are required to install a second drain system or an external shut-off.

Alan Korn, public policy director of the Washington-based nonprofit group Safe Kids Worldwide, said one person dies because of pool or spa drain suction in a typical year.

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