The recent passage of Senate Bill 368 requires substantial changes in enforcement on pool fencing. The bill prohibits denial of public swimming pool operation permits to pools permitted to operate before April 1, 2010 based solely on the dimensions of fence materials. Requirements for pool entrances must be met and the pool must still be completely enclosed, but variation from the dimensional requirements in 15A NCAC 18A .2528 (a)(1) through (a)(6) and (b)(1) through (b)(2) are not grounds for denying an operation permit.
This means if the existing fence fails to meet the minimum fence height, contains openings through or under the fence of greater than four inches, has handholds or footholds that can be used for climbing, or exceeds maximum mesh sizes, the pool cannot be denied a permit for those deficiencies alone. The inspection should include inspecting the fence and noting the deficiency, but no permit action should be taken unless the fence has such significant problems that it does not meet the requirement that it completely enclose the swimming pool. The bill requires that the pool owner bring the swimming pool fence into full compliance with the specifications in the rule when the owner/operator replaces the fence or when 50 percent of the fence is destroyed (similar to the threshold for meeting building code requirements). The bill also prohibits enforcement of a separate fence for wading pools until July 1, 2012 and directs the Commission for Public Health to review whether a separate wading pool fence is necessary and report back to the General Assembly.
Another provision in the bill eliminates the requirement for sanitary and dressing facilities at interactive water play attractions that are not located with a public swimming pool. Interactive water features originally associated with swimming pools are now being added to smaller parks and other public spaces where sanitary facilities are not typically provided. This provision was added to the bill to allow permitting of a feature in one such location, but makes dressing and sanitary facilities optional for all interactive play attractions not located at a swimming pool.
One other pool program policy change, not related to the recent legislation, is that we are abandoning the policy of allowing skimmer equalizers to be disabled. Last year there was a shortage of available skimmer equalizer fittings, so we allowed equalizer pipes to be plugged. The fittings are now readily available, so we should require the appropriate fittings to be installed.
There are some skimmer equalizers that cannot be made compliant with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act because the pipes are located in prohibited locations, such as seats and backrests, or are located in a corner without space for an approved fitting to be installed. In those cases where installing an approved fitting would require demolition of the pool wall and/or skimmer to relocate pipes, we can permit the pool to operate with disabled skimmer equalizers rather than require repairs that would be prohibitively expensive.
Full text of the legislation.