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It’s time to check those drain covers

The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGBA), effective December 19, 2008, imposes mandatory federal requirements for the avoidance of suction entrapment. One of the main components of the VGBA is the requirement of safety drain covers, and those covers have limited life spans.

Drain cover manufacturers are required to provide the consumer with information that tells them when the drain cover must be replaced before they begin to crack or show other signs of failure. Many manufacturers have designated a life span of 5 years, others up to 10 years.

It is time to check those covers.

All plastic drain covers, skimmer equalizer covers and spa suction outlet covers have a life span stamped on the cover.

Since numerous fittings were installed between 2008-09, many have or are about to reach the end of their stated life expectancy and need to be replaced.

Life spans of drain covers:

• DS 360: 3 years

• Aqua Star: 5 Years

• Paramount / SDX-Retro: 5 Years

• Hayward: cover, frame and screws must be replaced every 7 Years

• Waterway: 7 Years

• Lawson: 10 Years

• A& A: 10 Years

• Triodyne Anti-Hair Snare Drain Cover: 7 Years Safety drain covers are just one component of the VGBA. It is a good idea to take time to review other aspects of the law, to ensure that pools are in compliance.

The VGBA mandates the following changes in federal regulations for public pools/spas: ▪ All pool drain covers manufactured, distributed or entered into commerce on or after Dec. 19, 2008, must meet the ASME/ANSI A112.19.8 standard, or the successor standard ANSI/APSP-16 2011.

▪ All public pools and spas must be equipped with VGBA compliant drain covers.

▪ Pools and spas operating off of a single main drain (other than an unblockable drain) must also add one or more of the following options:*: ▪ A safety vacuum release system (SVRS); ▪ A suction-limiting vent system; ▪ A gravity drainage system; ▪ An automatic pump shut-off system; ▪ A disabled drain; or ▪ Any other system determined to be equally effective as, or better than, the others listed above.

*A pool may have more than one single main drain. If a pool has dual or multiple main drains more than 3 feet apart, it may be exempt from this final requirement. Pools and spas with single main drains that are unblockable are also exempt from this requirement. What are unblockable drains?

The VGBA only authorizes a standalone single drain suction system that meets the definition of a unblockable drain.

An unblockable drain includes all components from the cover to the suction outlet pipe, including support structures, fasteners and their receptacles.

Unblockable drains are defined based on the sump size, which is the opening in the pool or spa finish behind the cover.

To qualify as unblockable, it must not be possible to shadow the sump opening with the 18 inch by 23 inch body blocking element of the ANSI/APSP16 standard. Unblockable drains can be one of the manufactured type or the field fabricated type that is certified by a registered design professional. While manufactured products can be of the blockable or unblockable type, registered design professionals are only authorized to design and certify the installation of unblockable field fabricated drain systems.

Another important difference between blockable and unblockable drain systems is how their flow ratings are calculated.

An unblockable system’s flow rating is the sum of all suction outlet fitting assembly flow ratings. A blockable drain system’s flow ratings are calculated based on the assumption that the flow through one suction outlet fitting assembly will be blocked.

To determine a blockable suction system flow rating, first add the applicable flow rates and then subtract the highest rating of the set.

For example, if one drain is on the floor and another is on the wall, subtract the floor flow rating from the total to identify the suction system’s VGBA flow rating.

Lastly, single unblockable drain systems don’t require the installation of a VGBA device or a system designed to prevent suction entrapment unlike single blockable drain systems.

What is the proper marking on approved drain covers?

Since November 12, 2008, newlymade drain covers should have the “VGB 2008” marking.

The drain cover manufacturer should provide a certification document with each drain cover stating that it complies with the requirements of the VGBA.

If there is no mark or there is any doubt, contact the manufacturer and ask for a copy of the certificate.

Also keep a record of where and when the cover was purchased.

Covers are to display (per ASME standard): ▪ Use – single or multiple ▪ Flow rate GPM ▪ “Life” (number of years) ▪ Wall and/or floor mount ▪ Manufacturer’s name ▪ Model number

How to know when drain covers expire?

VGBA requires drain expiration information to be stamped on the top of each outlet cover and provided in the product literature. From the top of the outlet cover you will see “Life: __ Years” stamped just below the design flow rating. This information can also be found in the product literature that came with each cover that says, “Replace within __ installed years.” This provides when each cover must be replaced after the original installation date.

Is it important to replace drain covers on time?

Properly fitted, secured and maintained drain covers are crucial to protecting pool users from very serious injury or death due to entrapment. All outlet covers degrade over time from the effects of UV light and pool chemicals.

If a drain cover breaks or is not properly secured, the pool users are in imminent danger of serious injury. This hazard can be avoided by replacing outlet covers on time.

How do I determine the proper cover?

To understand how entrapment can be minimized, it is important to study flow rates.

Approved covers have specific flow rates that must never be exceeded.

A faster turnover rate results in a greater flow rate, measured in gallons per minute. Approved drain covers are rated in gallons per minute. Once the true flow rate of a pool system is known, a proper suction outlet fitting assembly can be selected and installed.

Flow rates can be determined by using the installed flow meters on the return line back to the pool or by calculating the total dynamic head of the system and then using the pump performance curve. The flow rating of the cover must exceed the pump’s maximum achievable flow when the system is clean.

How do I go about replacing existing outlet covers?

Be sure to consult with the manufacturer of the existing outlet covers or a commercial pool company to find replacements for the originals. Ensure that records have been updated with the most current information. A VGBA Compliance Form to help is included.

Thanks are due to PHTA for providing free VGBA online training, which helped inform this article.

For more information on entrapment, visit the poolsafetycouncil on YouTube. The Pool Safety Council is an advocacy organization dedicated to the prevention of child entrapment and drowning nationwide. The channel offers multiple videos on drain safety.

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