Associated Press Reports on CPSC revokation of unblockable drain rule

This story has now been picked up by more than 135 news outlets since late yesterday.
NSPF was interviewed, you will see a slice of Tom Lachocki's comments.
We urged the reporter to amend her story and include the fact that there have been NO
deaths or injuries related to entrapment since 2008, and that conversely there were more than 1500 drownings this season alone. She did amend to inlude info on the entrapment, but had a word count limitation and could not add more info. Laurie
Govt changes course on pool safety rule

WASHINGTON (AP) — Thousands of public pools in cities and towns nationwide will be taking a fresh look at their safety systems after federal regulators changed course Wednesday on measures required to keep swimmers, especially children, from getting trapped in pool drains.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted 3-2 to revoke guidance it provided pool operators nearly 18 months ago about how to comply with a sweeping 2007 law aimed at preventing drain suction from trapping swimmers under water. The law was passed in response to several horrific child entrapment deaths, including the 7-year-old granddaughter of former Secretary of State James A. Baker.

The new guidance requires public pools with a single main drain to have a back-up system that could shut the suction of the drain. Previously, they had been told they could use a new "unblockable" drain cover, usually a dome-shaped piece of equipment that covers the drain and prevents someone from getting trapped. The concern is that the "unblockable" drain cover could break, come loose or be improperly installed.

The move means public pools with those single-drain systems would have to buy new and costly back-up systems. Some pools may close if they don't have the new equipment by next May.

The new guidance comes after one of the five commissioners at the agency decided to change his earlier vote on how pools should interpret the law.

After siding last year with the two Republican commissioners, Democrat Bob Adler said Wednesday he has had a change of heart about what Congress intended when it wrote the law.

"My previous interpretation is wrong," Adler said, explaining that he has spent months talking to lawmakers who helped write the law and to industry officials, as well as hearing from parents who lost children in entrapment accidents.

The decision followed nearly two hours of contentious debate among the commissioners at a public meeting.

The overall impact on cities and states is not clear. Neither the CPSC nor the industry could provide figures on how many of the nation's estimated 300,000 public pools and spas have single-drain systems. Bigger pools with multiple drains are not affected by the vote.

Republicans on the commission said the unblockable drain option is safe. They fumed about cities and towns that have spent thousands of dollars re-fitting their pools with new drain covers, and questioned whether the seconds that pass before the back-up system kicks in would come too late to save a child.

They were also critical that the public — states and cities having to comply with the law — did not have a chance to weigh in before Wednesday's meeting.

In the end, public comment will be sought about whether the May 28, 2012, effective date for the changed policy is reasonable. But that did not satisfy Republican Commissioner Nancy Nord, who pressed for more facts before making changes to the agency's position.

"It's like saying we're going to guillotine you, now tell us what day would be convenient," said Nord.

Thomas Lachocki, who heads the National Swimming Pool Foundation, a nonprofit organization that offers safety and educational training for pool operators, says the new agency position will not make children safer and may close pools.

"It doesn't make sense to increase the financial hardship on pools in a very challenging economic time," Lachocki said in an interview. "That could result in a reduction of swim lessons, which results in an increase in drownings."

Between 1999 and 2010, there were about 80 injuries because of pool and hot tub drain entrapments, according to government figures. Twelve fatalities — most of them were children — were reported from 1999 to 2008. No fatalities have been reported in the last three years.

Nancy Baker, who lost her daughter Graeme in 2002 when the child was sucked onto a hot tub drain, says no parent should have to endure the loss and pain she and her family suffered.

Unblockable drains can fail, she said in a letter to the agency. "That is why the law included a provision requiring a back-up system regarding single drain pools, with an understanding that a drain cover would only prevent an accident were it in place and functioning properly."

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Comment by Laurie Batter on October 4, 2011 at 10:29am
There is not consensus within the government that the CPSC position is sound. 
NSPF remains concerned that this decision will increase drowning, not reduce entrapment, and cost jobs.
The oversight committee seems to share these concerns.


#CPSC #pool unblockable drain revocation called into question by gov't oversight committees. what do u think?
Comment by Tom Lachocki on October 3, 2011 at 9:00am

When I was in Washington, DC for the CPSC “Unblockable Hearing” (pun intended), I had the opportunity to meet with Commissioners Northup, Nord, Adler, and the attorneys for Commissioners Moore and Chairwoman Tenenbaum.


I presented a brief profile of the National Swimming Pool Foundation, and it’s efforts - to prevent injury, illness and drowning. I summarized our position which was also stated in the letter we sent last week.

1) There have been no entrapments for three years since the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act became law.

2) I provided data from the last three months detailing the hundreds to thousands of pools that are being closed or on the verge of being closed due to the depressing economic times. I reinforced that preserving pools is critical to teach children to swim so they are less likely to drown.

3) I reinforced how confusing a change would be now if there is no net benefit AFTER the CPSC has funded millions to organizations, including NSPF, to educate people in our field and public health officials. 


When I was in DC, I took the Metro to the heart of our capital - “the Mall” – for an evening jog.  As I visited memorials for Vietnam Veterans, Korean Veterans, Abraham Lincoln, WWII veterans, George Washington, and then Martin Luther King, I read these words chiseled into marble: "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy - MLK."


I fear that the CPSC decision to revoke the unblockable drain rule will result in more children drowning and none will be saved from entrapment. The National Drowning Prevention Alliance reported that this summer alone there have been about 1,500 drowning fatalities in the US. In stark contrast, THERE HAVE BEEN NO FATALTIES DUE TO SUCTION ENTRAPMENT FOR THREE YEARS. To add perspective, as reported in the New American, “in 2001 alone, there were 91,870 hospital emergency room-treated injuries associated with trampolines, which, ironically, was reported by CPSC.”  Ninety two thousand is a lot bigger than zero.


As the CPSC requires an additional level of protection to an unblockable drain, how many more facilities will be pushed over a financial cliff and be forced to close? How many fewer children will learn to swim? How many children will drown as a result? How many more lifeguards, facility managers, operators, service companies, and manufacturers will lose their jobs for fewer pools?


As an American, I am troubled that our government decided to impose an additional cost on aquatic facilities who are fighting drowning and obesity by helping our children learn to swim. If the change actually had a chance of saving lives, I’d think differently.


I know we stand united in commitment to eliminate entrapment.  At what point can we all declare victory in memory of Miss Baker, Miss Taylor, Master Cohn and others? Tens of thousands of facilities, service companies, design engineers, manufacturers, and others moved to implement the law.  And for three years, the record is perfect. Is there another CPSC/industry partnership that has met with such success?


How can we stand by and say it is OK to push more life-saving facilities to bankruptcy? How can we accept fewer children learning to swim? How can we accept a government decision that puts the many at risk for the good of the few (or in this case, the none)? How many people must lose their jobs because one government official decides to change his mind?


When I go to DC, I am excited. It is so AMAZING and so different. 

When I go to DC, I am fearful! It is so amazing and so DIFFERENT.


When I traveled around on the DC METRO, construction was happeni

Comment by Laurie Batter on September 30, 2011 at 4:16pm

Have you seen this news story from the New American. Politics, and corruption.


Feds to Regulate Public Swimming Pool Drains | Print |  
Written by Brian Koenig   
Thursday, 29 September 2011 15:52

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has reversed course on a law to regulate safety systems to prevent swimmers, particularly children, from getting trapped in public swimming pool drains. Federal regulators will investigate single drain systems and require public pools to install suction shut off systems by May 2012, or they will be closed down. In a 3-2 vote, the CPSC approved the new pool-safety measure on Wednesday. Previous to the new requirement, municipal pool operators were exempted from requirements mandated by the Virginia Graeme Baker

Comment by Jerry Ayers on September 29, 2011 at 1:05pm
Sadly this is not about public safety, its about selling back up systems! Shame on you CPSC!

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