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WHAT IS THE VIRGINIA GRAEME BAKER SAFETY ACT FOR POOLS & SPAS AND WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

Poolandspa.com News, Las Vegas, NV, January 13, 2009

In 2002 at the age of 7, little Graeme Baker died in a spa after the powerful suction of a drain entrapped her under water. While some children unfortunately die each year from swimming accidents in pools and spas, this little girl was different.  She was the granddaughter of the former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III.  This brought the tragedy into the spotlight. James A. Baker, III, joined Graeme's mother, Nancy Baker, and Safe Kids USA in a three-year advocacy campaign for the legislation. 

Passed in 2007, the legislation states that as of Dec. 19, 2008, every commercial pool (and spa) nationwide is required to have certain safety measures in place. All drains must be outfitted with approved covers, and single-main-drain pools need either split drains, safety vacuum release systems, vent systems or other approved methods. Un-blockable drains measuring more than 18-by-23 inches can stand on their own. You can read all the details of the law here. This law does not pertain to existing residential pools and spas, unless they are being drained and renovated. All new pools and spas must comply.

"While the loss of our beloved Graeme will be with us always, our hearts have been lifted by the passage of this common-sense piece of legislation that will save lives," James Baker said.  "We are grateful to President Bush and the members of Congress who are making sure other children are protected from the kind of accident that took Graeme from us."

Initially, this sounds like a great law, right ?  But as with many laws passed, there are unforeseen unintended consequences of the law.  The first one is that it became active as of December 2008, right in the middle of the worst recession our country has ever seen.  The expense necessary for many public and municipal swimming pools and spas is causing many of those pools and spas to be shut down.  Many of the towns and cities and small condo and apartment complexes that are covered by this law simply do not have the money to comply with it.  Experts say that the costs to retrofit the suction and main drain system of most units could be anywhere from $2000 all the way up to $200,000, depending on the complexity of the filtration system.  In these economic times, those costs are proving prohibitive for may public pool & spa operators.

The next problem is that due to the recession, many pool builders and spa companies have closed down, gone bankrupt, or just gone out of business because of the sagging pool & spa sales in 2008.  There simply are not enough pool & spa guys around to do all the retrofits right away.

And if that was not bad enough, there are very few pool & spa product manufacturers who have even started to manufacture the necessary compliant drains and associated parts necessary for compliance.  Fueled by fear of possible future lawsuits as well as generally declining sales and lack of capital, many of the big parts manufacturers are simply not producing the parts required by law.

As a result, we at Poolandspa.com have had thousands of requests for pool & spa complaint main drains, suction fittings and the associated fittings and equipment.  Poolandspa.com is a strong advocate for the safety of pool and spa users and for the dealers which build, repair, and supply them and we generally agree with the Virginia Graeme Baker Act as a means of strengthening the safety of the pool and spa experience.

However, as a result, it is now illegal to distribute non-compliant covers for pools and spas. Poolandspa.com takes its responsibilities seriously and accordingly, Poolandspa.com has taken all of our non-compliant drain covers out of our inventory so that they may not enter into the supply chain. We will no longer be selling non-compliant drain equipment.  We are  actively seeking compliant drain covers from the manufacturers and will post any updates on our website as soon they are available.

Unfortunately, many manufacturers are not taking non-compliant products back in exchange for compliant products.  Therefore Poolandspa will not handle or take back and non-compliant drain equipment which may have been previously purchased.

As far as we know right now (as of January 2009) none of the major manufacturers have any stock on compliant equipment and parts.  This includes all the biggies like Hayward, American, Pentair, etc.  One bright exception of this is found in Waterway Plastics, which has willingly worked with our suppliers in exchanging inventory. We would like to congratulate Waterway Plastics for their efforts which go above and beyond those generally seen at the manufacturer level.  At this point, Waterway plastics has manufactured a complete swimming pool main drain unit that is 100% compliant and must be purchased as a complete unit (not just the drain cover).  As you can imagine the waiting list for this unit is huge, and honestly, there will be no way that they will be able to fulfill the nationwide need for compliant main drains.

Poolandspa.com is taking waiting list requests for compliant pool & spa main drain units.  If you own or manage a public or semi-public pool or spa, and think you may need equipment to comply with the law, please send an email to us at customerservice@poolandspa.com and we will notify you when equipment becomes available.  Please realize that this equipment will be exceedingly expensive, and very hard to get, and the wait times will most likely be months, if not years.  Also please realize that only approved installers can do the installation (as per the details of the law), and that YOU MAY NOT OPERATE THE POOL OR SPA until the new drains are installed.

As you can see, these limits will significantly affect ALL public swimming pools and spas throughout 2009 and most likely throught 2010, causing most of them to be closed to the public until they are all retrofitted.


Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act - Original Legislation Details

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2007

In a move that child safety advocates say will save the lives of thousands of children, President Bush
today signed The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act of 2007.  The
legislation provides incentives for states to adopt comprehensive pool safety
laws that will protect children from life-threatening injuries and horrible
deaths from dangerous pool & spa drains.

The law, which was included as part of a comprehensive energy bill (H.R. 6),
passed the House on Dec. 18 by a vote of 314-100.  The Senate approved the
bill on Dec. 13. 

The law is named for the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James A.
Baker, III, who joined Graeme's mother, Nancy Baker, and Safe Kids USA in a
three-year advocacy campaign for the legislation.  In 2002 at the age of 7,
Graeme Baker died in a spa after the powerful suction of a drain entrapped her
under water.

"While the loss of our beloved Graeme will be with us always, our hearts have
been lifted by the passage of this common-sense piece of legislation that will
save lives," James Baker said.  "We are grateful to President Bush and the
members of Congress who are making sure other children are protected from the
kind of accident that took Graeme from us." 

Nancy Baker agreed.  "This legislation helps give meaning to the tragic
circumstances that took her life and the lives of many other children," Baker
said.  "It is a tribute to these children and their grieving families that
this bill will prevent injuries and death as a result of drowning.  Graeme
would be honored that it is in her name."

Specifically, the law will:

-- Prohibit the manufacture, sale or distribution of drain covers that do not
meet anti-entrapment safety standards established by the U.S. Consumer Product
Safety Commission.  The legislation includes a directive for the CPSC to
establish a safety standard for anti-entrapment drain covers.  This would
ensure that all drain covers available in the marketplace would conform to
certain safety criteria.

-- Create an incentive grant program for states to adopt comprehensive pool
and spa safety laws requiring certain safety devices in swimming pools and
spas to protect children.  The legislation would provide grants to states that
pass a comprehensive swimming pool and spa safety law.  The bill would require
states to use funds, if awarded, to hire and train personnel for the proper
enforcement of state law; and educate pool owners and operators, pool
construction and installation companies, pool service companies and the public
about the state law and about drowning prevention practices.
 
-- Establish a national drowning prevention education program within the U.S.
Consumer Product Safety Commission.  The bill would require the CPSC to create
and administer an educational program to inform the public about ways to
prevent drowning and entrapment in swimming pools and spas, and execute a
national media campaign to promote awareness of pool and spa safety.

-- Require public pools to incorporate anti-entrapment drain covers and other
layers of protection.  The legislation would require that each public pool and
spa be equipped with anti-entrapment drain covers and other layers of
protection, such as safety vacuum release systems.

Victory for children, parents, caregivers, and safety advocates

Drowning remains the second leading killer of children under the age of 14.
The law is the result of three years of work by Safe Kids USA, the Baker
family, Congressional leaders, and dozens of other stakeholders. 

"Safe Kids USA and the children we work to protect from accidental injury and
death owe a huge debt of gratitude to U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and
U.S. Sens. Mark Pryor and Ted Stevens, the original House and Senate sponsors
of the bill," said Alan Korn, public policy director of Safe Kids USA.  "Their
persistence and determination were key to moving the legislation, and will
mean that many children's lives will be saved."

Korn also credited other members of Congress whose help was invaluable during
the legislative process.  These included U.S. Reps. Bobby Rush, Cliff Stearns,
Frank Wolf, John Dingell, and Joe Barton, along with U.S. Sens. Christopher
Dodd, Daniel Inouye, and Amy Klobuchar.  "Their dedication and confidence in
this small, simple piece of legislation will have huge impact in preventing
the needless injuries and deaths of children," Korn said. 

For more information, visit The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Bill Web Page
(http://sk.convio.net/site/PageNavigator/Campaigns/PoolSpaSafetyAct%20/CampaignPoolHome)
at http://www.usa.safekids.org.

Safe Kids Worldwide is a global network of organizations whose mission is to
prevent accidental childhood injury, a leading killer of children 14 and
under. More than 450 coalitions in 16 countries bring together health and
safety experts, educators, corporations, foundations, governments and
volunteers to educate and protect families. The organization was founded in
1987 by Children's National Medical Center with support from Johnson &
Johnson.