Pool and Spa Drain Safety
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Pool and Spa Drain Safety

Article discussing the requirements for the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act of 2007.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 83 reports of entrapment in pool drains, resulting in 11 deaths and 69 injuries, between 1999 and 2008.

Pool and spa drains are a necessary part of the circulation system but the suction created by pumping water through the drains can trap swimmers, especially children and those with long hair. Pools and spas with a single drain system present a greater risk of entrapment than those with two or more drains.

The granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker, Graeme Baker, died as the result of entrapment in a spa drain. This tragic event was the catalyst for a new Federal law. The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act of 2007 is a federal law that became effective on December 19, 2008. The law requires owners and operators of public pools and spas to comply with new Federal standards for pool and spa construction, including incorporation of anti-entrapment drains and drainage systems to protect against entrapment and drowning.

Injuries from entrapment by a pool drain shown below


The intent of the law is to reduce injuries and deaths by imposing mandatory requirements for entrapment avoidance for all public pools and spas. There are two requirements in the law that will affect a community association with a pool or spa.

1. All new and existing public pools and spas must be equipped with anti- entrapment drain covers that meet the requirements of ASME A112.19.8-2007.

2. All public pools and spas with a single main drain, other than an unblockable drain, must be equipped with one or more additional devices or systems designed to prevent suction entrapment.

A third requirement in the law affects the manufacturing and sale of drain covers. All pool and spa drain covers manufactured, sold or imported into the United Sates must conform to American National Standard ASME A112.19.S—2007 Suction Fittings for Use in Swimming Pools, Wading Pools, Spas and Hot Tubs published by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

Even if you live in an apartment, condominium, or belong to a home owner’s association where the pool is considered a private or exclusive amenity, the Federal law takes precedent over state and local laws. Prior to December 19, 2008, individual state and

local laws regulated the operation of community pools and spas. Regardless of how a state law defines a public pool or spa, the Federal law specifically defines pools and spas that are open exclusively to members of a residential real estate development such as a community association as public.

Violations of this law can result in civil or criminal penalties, including fines and imprisonment. Enforcement of the law is under the Consumer Product Safety Act.

When the bill became law the maximum penalty for one or more violations was $.1825 Million. On August 14, 2008, with the passage of the landmark Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, the maximum penalty increased to $15 Million.


Even if a pool is designed and constructed with two or more main drains that are at least three feet apart and are hydraulically balanced, the only way to confirm that a main drain or main drain frame and grate meets the ASME/ANSI Standard is to have a drain tested and certified by a nationally recognized testing lab. The standard requires that all main drains be labeled with the following information:

Designation that the drain has been tested and certified to meet the standards of ASME A112.19.8

1. Statement that the drain is intended for single- or multiple-drain use.

2. The certified maximum flow rate for the drain in gallons per minute.

3. The intended application for the fitting, such as swimming pools, swim jets or spas.

4. The manufacturer’s intended life of the drain in years.

5. The intended installation position, such as floor, wall or floor and wall, if approved for both applications.

6. Manufacturer’s name.

7. Manufacturer’s model designation.

As of 2009, various nationally recognized testing laboratories have only recently been set up to conduct tests to the ASME standards. At this time, the National Swimming Pool Foundation reports there is only one 8-inch diameter drain that has been certified to meet the ASME standard.

Signage indicating compliance


Before the law came into affect, there were very few compliant drain covers available on the market. Today many compliant drain covers are available in standard sizes at a cost ranging from less than $100 to $1,000 or more depending on the size of the cover.

There will be additional costs for installation and modifications to drain assembly that may be required to accommodate the new cover. The other measure in the law concerns the drains themselves.

If a pool or spa has a single main drain, other than an unblockable drain, it must be equipped with one or more additional features designed to prevent suction entrapment. The law recognizes the following systems or methods as meeting this requirement:

• Safety vacuum release system - A safety vacuum release system that ceases operation of the pump, reverses the circulation flow or otherwise provides a vacuum release at a suction outlet when a blockage is detected

• Suction limiting vent system - A suction-limiting vent system with a tamper-resistant atmospheric opening

• Gravity drainage system - A gravity drainage system that utilizes a collector tank

• Automatic pump shut off system

• Dram disablement - A device or system that disables the drain

• Other systems determined by the CPSC to be equally effective or better than the above systems

Ease of placement, engineering, concrete cutting and patching, plumbing and permitting will determine the total cost of installing these additional safeguards.

Additional Resources

Consumer Product Safety Commission Pool Safety Website


National Drowning Prevention Alliance


National Swimming Pool Foundation


Pool Safety Council


Additional resources:

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