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Paul Pennington. California AB1020 A Pain in the Drain?. Chairman and Founder. Rev: CA-N (AB1020) 6-2010. About the Pool Safety Council. 501(c)(4) non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of child drowning nationwide. Operates exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.

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paul pennington

Paul Pennington

California AB1020

A Pain in the Drain?

Chairman and Founder

Rev: CA-N (AB1020) 6-2010

about the pool safety council
About the Pool Safety Council
  • 501(c)(4) non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of child drowning nationwide. Operates exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.
  • Responsible for helping craft the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act and the California law, Assembly Bill 1020.
  • Headquartered in Washington, D.C, with an administrative office in California, and a state-of-the-art testing and research facility near Tampa, FL.
  • Work with other safety organizations including Safe Kids USA, Drowning Prevention Foundation, and US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
psc frequently asked questions
PSC Frequently Asked Questions
  • Do I need to drain my pool and install dual drains?
    • Received over 100 calls (mostly apartment building managers) who received bids reading – “split drains as required by VGB and state law”.
    • No where in AB1020 and VGB does it say split drains are an option
  • Is a skimmer equalizer line required to have compliant drain covers and/or an SVRS installed?
  • Who is allowed to perform retrofit work on my pool?
  • What is a main drain?
federal consequences for non compliance cpsc letter to a non compliant pool
Federal Consequences for Non-ComplianceCPSC Letter to a Non-Compliant Pool

“Operating a pool or spa that does not comply with the requirements mandated by the VGBA is a violation of Section 1404(c)(1)(A)(ii) and shall be considered a Prohibited Act under Section 19(a)(1) of the Consumer Product Safety Act (“CPSA”), 15 U.S.C. § 2068(a)(1). As a result, you and the pool or spa owner could be subject to fines of $100,000 for each violation up to a maximum of $15 million for any related series of violations, imprisonment for not more than five (5) years, and/or forfeiture of assets, pursuant to Sections 20 and 21 of the CPSA, 15 U.S.C. §§ 2069 and 2070.

“The staff requests that you immediately stop operating the pool or spa until it can be brought into compliance with the VGBA. Please respond in writing within 10 working days from the date that you received this letter outlining the specific actions you plan to take to address the violation described herein.”

skimmers and equalizer lines
Skimmers and Equalizer Lines

From California AB1020 –116064.2(a)(7)

“….a skimmer line is not a main drain.”

From CA Department of Public Health “Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Public Pool and Spa Safety Act – AB 1020”

“AB 1020 does not require drain covers or any other anti-entrapment devices for skimmer equalizer lines. Health and Safety Code Section 116064.2(a)(7) specifically excludes a skimmer equalizer line from the definition of a main drain. The definition for skimmer equalizer line specifically states that ‘a skimmer equalizer line is not a main drain.’ As a result, by excluding a skimmer equalizer line from the definition of a main drain, the provisions of the law regarding anti-entrapment devices do not apply to skimmer equalizer lines."

skimmers and equalizer lines8
Skimmers and Equalizer Lines

From CPSC “Frequently Asked Questions” website:

“…skimmer equalizer lines are submerged drains and must either be covered (with an ASME/ANSI A112.19.8-2007 compliant cover) or plugged. Equalizer lines are not considered to be main drains based on the CPSC staff’s interpretation of the law.”

Skimmers are not considered to be apart of a “multiple drain system”. Skimmers are designed to collect leaves and debris, therefore we cannot assume they will function as a drain in a “multiple drain system”.

ab 1020 approved drain covers and safety devices
AB 1020-Approved Drain Covers and Safety Devices

From CA Department of Public Health “Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Public Pool and Spa Safety Act – AB 1020”

“To avoid confusion with product information already being provided by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), CDPH does not anticipate publishing a list of ‘approved equipment’. A complete listing of drain cover manufacturers who have received certification to the ASME/ANSI A112.19.8-2007 standard can be found at

“In addition, a list of certified safety vacuum release system (SVRS) manufacturerscan be found at”

cpsc list of asme ansi a112 19 8 approved drain covers
CPSC list of ASME/ANSI A112.19.8 Approved Drain Covers
  • A&A Manufacturing
  • AquaStar Pool Products, Inc.
  • Afras Industries, Inc.
  • BALBOA Water Group
  • BeeSafe Systems
  • Color Match Pool Fittings
  • Current Systems, Inc.
  • Custom Molded Products, Inc.
  • Drain Safe/New Water Solutions
  • Eureka Manufacturing Co.
  • Hayward Pool Products
cpsc list of asme ansi a112 19 8 approved drain covers13
CPSC list of ASME/ANSI A112.19.8 Approved Drain Covers
  • Healix Enterprises, Inc.
  • Lawson Aquatics, Inc.
  • Neptune-Benson, Inc.
  • Paddock Pool Equipment Co.
  • Paramount Pool and Spa Systems
  • Pentair Water Pool and Spa
  • San Antonio Gary Equipment Company
  • Triodyne Safety Systems, LLC
  • Waterway Plastics
  • World Wide Sports, LLC

cdph compliance flowchart
CDPH Compliance Flowchart
  • “And if not split drain or not unblockable single main drain, then must also retrofit with at least one secondary safety device/system (Safety Vacuum Release System, Suction-Limiting Vent System, Gravity Drainage System, Automatic Pump Shut-Off System, and/or Equally Effective System) by July 1, 2010”.
frequently asked questions
Frequently Asked Questions
  • Should I install split drains or install a safety backup system for my single drain pool or spa?
danger of dual drains without backup
Danger of Dual Drains without Backup

Suction Outlet 2

Suction Outlet 1

Both suction outlets are blocked by leaves and debris – Donald Swisher entrapment.

single drains appearing as dual drains
Single Drains Appearing as Dual Drains

Wheaton Sports Center, Wheaton, Illinois. The child, Alex Martinez got stuck to a suction outlet, where he was held underwater for 1 to 2 minutes. The pool has dual main drains, however one of the drains was disabled, as the pool builder left a drain plug in the piping.

Alex Martinez was stuck to a drain grate, suffered ecchymosis, contusion, and abrasions to his back.

single drains appearing as dual drains19
Single Drains Appearing as Dual Drains

The Associated Press, July 2006

  • “Aljuwon Pipkin, who was visiting from Newark, N.J., was released from the hospital a week after the July 13 incident. Officials said a grate at the bottom of the tub became dislodged, creating a strong suction that pulled the teen underwater…..As others jumped in to pull the teen from the bottom of the tub, Pipkin’s father began trying to breathe air into his son’s mouth, authorities said”.

Radisson Hotel, Kissimmee, Florida. Appears to be dual outlets.

one drain blocked in a dual drain system
One Drain Blocked in a Dual Drain System

-ABC News Australia – February 16, 2010

“Deputy state coroner Paul McMahon this morning found the spa was dangerous because it had no emergency stop switch and the drain on the bottom was blocked”.

-The Sydney Morning Herald – February 16, 2010

“Shannon [Rankin] became trapped because of the significant pressure that resulted from a blockage in the main drains, which occurred during "the process of the pebble-creting of the wall and floor of the spa pool during its construction", he said”.

dual drains without backup waterfall feature
Dual Drains without Backup – Waterfall Feature

Greenwich Time – August 2, 2007, Martin B. Cassidy

“The drowning death of a 6-year-old Greenwich boy this weekend when his arm became entrapped inside an unprotected suction valve has drawn nationwide attention to the life-threatening hazard of pool and spa drains.

…”On Saturday Zachary’s [Cohn] arm became stuck in an intake valve whose protective grate covering was later found in the pool, according to Lt. Daniel Allen, a spokesman for the police department. When bystanders realized Zachary was trapped, they shut down the pump by cutting the power to the house and freed the boy, Allen said”.

danger of drains without backup on two different planes
Danger of Drains without Backup on Two Different Planes

Letter to CPSC RE: Matt Bichelmeyer entrapment incident from his lawyer

“The [spa] has four suction inlets which are tied to two pumps. Three of the suction inlets are placed in the footwell which is located on the bottom of the spa and has a configuration of approximately 17 inches by 32 inches. Two of the suction inlets in the footwell are tied to one pump. The third suction inlet is tied to a separate pump along with the skimmer. The suction outlets located in the footwell are not separated by three feet. They are only 14-15 inches apart. In fact, the entire footwell is less than the three foot requirement……Amazingly, the defendants never warned nor has it ever warned of the risk of entrapment”.

APSP-7 Section 5.3.2

“Dual outlets shall be separated by a minimum of three feet (3’)(914mm) measured from the center to center of suction pipes, OR located on two (2) different planes; i.e. one (1) on the bottom and one (1) on the vertical wall…

danger of dual drains without backup23
Danger of Dual Drains without Backup

Guidelines for Entrapment Hazards: Making Pools and Spas Safer – March 2005, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

  • “Due to the ‘human element’ involved in the care and maintenance of pools and spas, it is strongly recommended that consideration be given to including an additional and final layer of protection in all pools and spas that use submerged suction outlets, to relieve an entrapping suction force should outlets become blocked or if covers are broken or removed”.
dual drain sump port size
Dual Drain Sump Port Size

2 ½” or 3” port diameter

cdph compliance flowchart26
CDPH Compliance Flowchart
  • “And if not split drain or not unblockable single main drain, then must also retrofit with at least one secondary safety device/system (Safety Vacuum Release System, Suction-Limiting Vent System, Gravity Drainage System, Automatic Pump Shut-Off System, and/or Equally Effective System) by July 1, 2010”.
cpsc approved svrs manufacturers
CPSC Approved SVRS Manufacturers
  • A.O. Smith EPC
  • EmotronInc.
  • Hayward Pool Products
  • Pentair Water Pool and Spa
  • Stingl Products, LLC
  • Vac-Alert Industries, LLC
  • Vacless Systems, Inc.

svrs systems
SVRS Systems

© Information adapted from Commercial Pool Systems Inc. Approved Drain Covers & Safety Vacuum Release Systems. Used with permission.

atmospheric vent line suction limiting vent system
Atmospheric Vent Line (Suction Limiting Vent System

The ASTM 15.51 standard for Suction Limiting Vent Systems has been finalized and will be released shortly.

suction limiting vent system33
Suction Limiting Vent System

ASTM 15.51 Standard



gravity drainage system for new pool construction
Gravity Drainage System (for new pool construction)
  • Utilizes a collector tank and has a separate water storage vessel from which the pump draws water from.
  • Water moves from the pool into the collector tank due to atmospheric pressure, gravity, and water displacement from bathers.
  • This removes the need for direct suction from the pool itself.
  • The ASTM standard is in the final stages of approval, and will be released as a finalized standard shortly.
automatic pump shut off system
Automatic Pump Shut Off System
  • Device that detects drain blockage and automatically shuts off the pump.
  • Some SVRS systems meet this definition.
  • Per the CPSC staff interpretation of the VGB Act, currently there are no voluntary standards for Automatic Pump Shut Off systems, though the current SVRS standards provide release and response time performance criteria.

Unblockable Drains (AB1020)

“’Unblockable drain’ means a drain of any size and shape that a human body cannot sufficiently block to create a suction entrapment hazard.”


Unblockable Drains (from CA Department of Public Health “Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Public Pool and Spa Safety Act – AB 1020)

“CPSC issued a final interpretive rule on the definition of unblockable drain[s]….The following is the text of the definition as found in 16 CFR Section 1450.2:

“(b) Unblockable drain includes a suction outlet defined as all components, including the sump and/or body, cover/grate, and hardware such that its perforated (open) area cannot be shadowed by the area of the 18” x 23” Body Blocking Element of ASME/ANSI A112.19.8-2007 and that the rated flow through the remaining open area (beyond the shadowed portion) cannot create a suction force in excess of the removal force values in Table 1 of that Standard.”

the 99 th percentile man
The “99th Percentile” Man

Pool Safety Council


CPSC Staff Interpretation

Discussions are underway at 19.8 drain cover standards committee to change the definition of an unblockable drain. Our understanding from CPSC is that recommendations for backup protection to the States will be out shortly.


99th Percentile man as described in The Measure of Man and Woman – Revised Edition, Human Factors in Design

99th Percentile man as used in ASME 19.8

the damage of unblockable drains
The Damage of Unblockable Drains

How can you call something “unblockable” that has had a well-documented blockage occur?

Swimmer from Seal Beach, California – photo of the marks left on his chest after being held against the suction grate cover of an “unblockable drain”.

us consumer product safety commission chairman s position on unblockable drains
US Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman’s position on “unblockable drains”

Inez M. Tenenbaum, Chairman

US Consumer Product Safety Commission

March 1, 2010 – “Statement of Chairman Inez M. Tenenbaum on the Commission decision regarding the use of unblockable drain covers and compliance with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act”.

“The use of an unblockable drain cover by itself does not address the entrapment risks posed by a missing or broken drain cover to the same degree as the installation of the safety systems expressly provided for in the VGB Act. Indeed, some states such as Washington have expressly stated that: ‘[n]ational experience with entrapment events all too frequently identify drain cover or fastener fatigue resulting in a broken or missing cover as the major contributor to entrapment-related injury and death. Relying on a cover to provide the sole measure of entrapment prevention, even one of ‘unblockable’ design meeting the ASME A112.19.8-2007 standard, presents a level of risk that Washington State finds unacceptable.’ iv”

cdph frequently asked questions
CDPH Frequently Asked Questions
  • Who is allowed to perform retrofit work on my pool?
ca ab1020 qualified contractor requirements
CA AB1020 Qualified Contractor Requirements

“’Qualified Individual’ means a contractor who holds a current valid license issued by the State of California or a professional engineer licensed in the State of California who has experience working on public swimming pools.”

cdph interpretation on qualified contractor requirements
CDPH Interpretation onQualified Contractor Requirements

“Contractors who build or repair swimming pools must be licensed as swimming pool specialty contractors. A general building contractor may also contract for swimming pool work provided the general building contractor holds the swimming pool specialty classification, or the general building contractor hires a licensed swimming pool specialty contractor to perform the work.”

“According to information provided by staff of [Contractors State License Board] CSLB, the following types of pool work can be performed by contractors with the following contractor license types:

paul pennington53

Paul Pennington

For any questions, comments, or research:

Telephone: 877-222-4289

Fax: 202-204-5808


Email: |

Chairman and Founder