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Pools conform to new law

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By Lisa King

A new regulation designed to protect children swimming in pubic pools has caused some facilities to struggle to meet its requirements in time for the summer season.

The tragic death of a 7-year-old girl who was sucked into a pool drainpipe spawned the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, which became law. After some extensions, pools now must pass an inspection before they can open for their summer seasons, typically around Memorial Day.

All public pools in Shelby County apparently will be ready for the opening, but they have had to endure some significant expense to acquire the equipment required to pass an inspection.

"We will be working on our indoor pool next Monday and Tuesday," FAC Aquatics Director Jeremiah Heath said. "Our outside pool will not open until May 23, and we expect it to be ready by then.

"It would really upset a summer swim team if they didn't have a place to practice."

The required updates include two pieces of equipment: a drain cover and an automatic cutoff switch.

Virginia Baker was killed after she was pulled into the pool's drain by the suction of a whirlpool's drain, so pools are now required to have a drain cover as well as a device that will switch off the pump if something becomes caught in the drain. The new regulation applies to public pools, spas and wading pools for children.

Heath said not all pools are going to be ready. He cited a new facility in Georgetown and the pool at Tom Sawyer State Park in Louisville as being unable to open.

The problem has been that production did not begin on the required parts until recently, said Chris Head, park manager at Sawyer.

"The parts that are required have not been on the market until the last two weeks," Head said.

He said the park's main Olympic-size pool had to have extensive work done before the parts could even be installed.

"We had to tear out the concrete around the drain before we could replace the drain frame and cover. We are doing that today," he said. "I could not even begin to tell you how much it will cost yet."

Heath said the refinements to the pools at the FAC would cost in the neighborhood of $10,000, which is considerably less than Georgetown's cost of $20,000.

Most other pools around the county will be ready to go by pool season, including The Cardinal Club, Persimmon Ridge Golf Club and the Shelbyville Country Club.

Nancy Sanders, environmental supervisor for the North Central District in Shelbyville, has the job of inspecting the pools to see if they meet the new standards.

"I have been visiting the ones I can, but a lot of them haven't started updates yet because the parts they need are still on order," she said. "This is the first time in my career that we have ever been the ones to have to enforce a federal regulation, but I think it's a good piece of legislation.

"It was a real tragedy what happened to that little girl, and she wasn't the only one it ever happened to."

Sanders added that she would have no qualms about closing any pool that is not up to standard.

"Hopefully we won't have to close any pools, but they have had plenty of warning and we'll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it," she said.