"Abigail Taylor was injured on June 29 when she
sat on a pool drain and its powerful suction ripped out part of her
intestinal tract. She had small bowel, liver and pancreas transplants
at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in December but suffered
"Unless new anti-drowning drain covers are installed, tens of thousands of public swimming pools and hot tubs could be forced to close Saturday under a sweeping law designed to prevent drain suction from trapping children under water.
The rules apply to pools and spas used by the public, including municipal pools and those at hotels, private clubs, apartment buildings and community centers.
The improved drain systems were outlined in legislation passed by Congress a year ago. Pool and spa operators had a year to comply; Friday is the deadline for installing the new equipment.
Nancy Nord, acting chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, said Monday the agency will focus initially on public baby pools and wading pools, as well as in-ground spas that have flat drain grates on the bottom and just one drain system.
"We will be focusing our initial efforts on the littlest swimmers in the littlest pools," Nord told reporters.
Nord said, however, that Congress did not give her agency the $7 million needed to enforce the law. As a result, the federal government expects states to take on much of the enforcement responsibility.
The issue received heightened attention after the 7-year-old granddaughter of former Secretary of State James A. Baker was sucked onto a spa drain in 2002. She drowned despite efforts to pry her off.
The National Swimming Pool Foundation, a nonprofit group in Colorado Springs, Colo., said about 80 percent of the 300,000 public pools and spas in the United States do not comply with the new rules and may have to close.
It said the cost of complying with the new law would range from $1,000 to $15,000 per pool. A variety of factors, including the availability of compliant drains and the workers to install them, determine the eventual price tag. Given current economic conditions, that' s a potentially heavy financial burden for local governments.