New law may delay start of pool season

The traditional Memorial Day opening of the Hillsboro Aquatic Center will apparently survive one challenge emerging from a new federal law?but it may get caught on a second provision.

The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, which Congress passed last year and went into effect Dec. 19, requires all pools used by the public?including municipal pools and those at hotels, private clubs, apartment buildings and community centers?to add anti-entrapment drain covers.

The federal law is named for the 7-year-old granddaughter of former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker. She was sucked onto a spa drain in 2002 during a birthday party and drowned despite efforts to pry her off.

Larry Paine, Hillsboro city administrator, said the local pool will be equipped with an appropriate drain cover by Memorial Day?even though the pool?s large drain doesn?t pose a physical threat to users.

?Our swimming pool is designed so those sort of issues are not really affected,? he said.

The local pool, which opened in 2006, circulates water by bringing in new water at the bottom of the pool; the excess water drains away through a guttering system along the outside edge of the pool. It is not sucked out through the drain at the bottom of the pool.

?We do have a large drain at the bottom of the deep end for one singular purpose?it?s to drain the pool when nobody?s there,? Paine said. ?It is not used in the circulation process for the swimming pool.

?We could get away with not having (an anti-entrapment drain cover) down there, but we?re going to find a way to get some sort of a domed screens over the top (of the drains) so nobody will go ballistic if they see it,? he added.

Paine said the city will have the cover custom made, alleviating the threat of a delay by manufacturers having to supply the required covers for the estimated 300,000 public pools across the country.

But the Hillsboro pool is not home free. The same law requires that the distance from a recirculation drain to the pipe be one-and-half times the size of the pipe. The 6-inch pipe near the big slide is not the required 9 inches away.

Paine said the city will be hiring an engineer ?real quick? to see how the city can best address the issue.

?It may mean that we have to retrofit that part of the pool?maybe even reconstruct it, I don?t know,? Paine said.

?We?re trying to see if we can?t re-pipe within the structure of the pool, as it is constructed, without having to break that part of the pool out to rebuild it,?he said.

If the northeast corner of the pool has to be rebuilt, it could delay opening day, Paine said.

?Until we get through the engineering review on this thing, and try to figure out what we have to do, (a delay) is a possiblity,? he said.

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