Some South Florida homeowner communities, condo complexes and hotels may need to temporarily close their pools and spas following a huge recall of safety drain covers announced by federal safety regulators Thursday.
About 1 million covers made by eight manufacturers, some among the largest, were being voluntarily pulled after a confidential report revealed the products had failed safety tests. Officials with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said public pools and spas with direct suction systems and recalled covers should close until replacement covers could be installed.
Many pool owners and operators put in new safety equipment in recent years to address a deadly entrapment hazard involving drain covers. A new federal law, which went into effect in December 2008, required redesigned grates to prevent swimmers from being trapped underwater by drain suction. But federal regulators now say some covers installed since 2009 still can pose an entrapment hazard to swimmers and bathers.
Between 1999 and 2008, 12 people were killed in pool and spa entrapments and 72 were injured, according to a CPSC report released Thursday. There were no entrapment fatalities in 2009 and 2010, following the new law’s passage, and 10 injuries.
The recall does not apply to covers installed before Dec. 19, 2008, or to pools with multiple or gravity drains or hot tubs. It does include private and public pools with a single drain, wading pools and in-ground spas.
While the CPSC does not have the authority to close single-family home pools and spas, commission Chairman Inez Tenenbaum advised that all recalled covers be replaced to avoid dangerous or fatal accidents. The manufacturers must pay for new covers and installation fees.
An estimated 5,000 of Florida’s 37,000 public pools and spas, which are inspected and regulated by local arms of the state health department, have outdated direct suction. But South Florida has a large share of them, most of which state experts said are in older condo and apartment complexes as well as hotels, because of its longstanding tourism and retirement housing industries.
Most pools built after 1977 and spas built after 1993 do not have direct suction. While they also will need to replace recalled covers, Tenenbaum said closure wasn’t necessary.
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Published May 27, 2011 | By Diane C. Lade, Sun Sentinel