Archive for the ‘Pool safety’ Category

Chemical Dangers I Wish I knew Before Blowing Up My Chlorine Feeder

Bob Russell | March 20, 2017 in Indoor pools,Pool,Pool chemicals,Pool safety,Pool Service,Sanitizers | Comments (0)

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If you are a pool owner and love to do it yourself 

please read this short message:


The standard 3″ tablet used in erosion feeders is “TriChloro-S-Triazinetrione” (Cl3C3N3O3).

In the pool business, we refer to these 3″ tabs as “Trichlor Tabs.”

Recently, manufacturers of Calcium Hypochlorite have pressed their chlorine product into tablets about the same size as standard 3″ Trichlor tablets. This is where I see potential for disaster.

Every service person in the Pool Business learns chemical safety early, including: How to handle, store and transport pool chemicals and how to avoid mixing incompatible chemicals. Incompatible chemicals are so named because they can release hazardous gasses or react violently if mixed.

“Trichlor” Tablets should NEVER be mixed with Calcium Hypochlorite Tablets.

Even a small amount can cause a strong reaction including fire or explosion.

If you take care of your own pool- even partially, please be careful when shopping for tablets and only use what you’ve been using in your feeder all along- “Trichlor” Tablets.

Below are pictures of some of the new Calcium Hypochlorite tablets on the market. Always check the ingredients when you purchase “Chlorinating Tablets”!

Thank you!




Calcium Hypochlorite Tablets

Copyright 2008, Tom Altany,

Calcium Hypochlorite Tablets


Preparing Your Swimming Pool For Joquin

Bob Russell | October 2, 2015 in Eco-friendly,Pool,Pool chemicals,Pool safety,Pool Service,Sanitizers,Uncategorized,Winterize | Comments (0)

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Preparing For Heavy Rain And Winds


A check list and some frequently asked questions:


1) Secure or store deck furniture.

This includes: Tables, umbrellas; anything that can be blown by strong winds and become a potentially damaging projectile

2) Automatic pool coversIf your pool is still open: During periods of heavy downpours, we recommend opening automatic covers so heavy rain can fill the pool and not your closed cover. Heavy rain on top of your cover (a foot or more) could damage it. 

We also recommend this because, should your area lose power, the cover will be “stuck” closed. A sump pump cannot keep up with this volume of rainfall- especially if power is out.

While using your cover pump to remove accumulated water, be sure to run pump discharge into skimmers with system running so water is filtered and added to pool beneath cover.  

If you have a “Grando” or similar style floating automatic pool cover that drains off into pool, your decision to leave it open or closed should be based on the risk of wind-blown branches or debris which could damage your cover.

Yes, your pool will get messy with blowing leaves. This is a preferrable outcome to expensive repairs of a damaged auto cover. Leaves and branches can be scooped and picked out of the pool afterwards.


3) If you can winterize your pool before the storm arrives, do it!


4) Water table issues: Pools located in areas where ground water can surge should NOT be pumped too low. It is almost always okay if your pool overflows! Consider the following:

Do not lower pool water level excessively to “make room” for heavy rains. There is a real risk of floating a swimming pool or buckling the shell if pool water levels are too low during prolonged periods of heavy rains where water tables surge. Leave pool at normal winter water levels (between bottom of tile and 11″ below bottom of tile.) 

The risk is greater with pools in flood-prone areas including properties adjacent to the LI Sound. An overflowing pool is preferable to an opened hydrostatic relief valve (which requires a diver to re-set). Hydrostat valves can open and become stuck open when water table surges up and above water level inside pool.

The exception to this rule is the odd situation where an overflowing pool creates other problems that must be avoided (you know who you are).


Q: What about pool chemicals?

A: Normal levels pool chemicals are diluted during heavy rains and will  NOT cause damage to grass or gardens this time of year. Chlorine dissipates rapidly on the ground. Don’t worry about pool chemicals hurting anything should your pool overflow during a heavy downpour.


5) If you are a Glen Gate Client, we will reach out to those in hard hit areas. If you are not a client and need assistance please feel free to inquire about our services by contacting our office at 203 762-2000.  

Our Pool and Property Care teams specialize in storm clean-up.


6) If you have a significant amount of landscape soil wash into your pool- call us to assess the situation. It may be we can save the water. In some heavy wash-in situations we may advise draining and cleaning out the pool.


7) For those of you on the coast-  Let your pool fill. Your pool structure is safest when full should a wave come inland and reach your property; or there be severe flood tides.

For now, we hope you and your property are safe and sound!

Call if you need anything!

Bob and the service team at Glen Gate Company


Pool and Spa Winter Maintenance

Bob Russell | February 12, 2015 in Equipment maintenance,Pool,Pool equipment,Pool safety,Pool Service,Sanitizers,Winterize | Comments (0)

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Winter And Your Outdoor Pool/ Spa

New England winters are long and harsh. You may have noticed :)

Protecting your outdoor pool and spas however, is pretty basic.

Here are 4 basic things you must do to protect your outdoor pool and spa:

1) Make sure the water is balanced and sanitized when pool or spa is closed.

If you are unclear how to do this, I suggest you consult with a professional.

There is a science to minimizing winter damage through good water chemistry.

This step is critical to protecting your investment and conserving water.

2) Make sure circulation system and all related plumbing is properly winterized.

The reasons for this may be obvious- ice can break or damage just about anything. As a pool inspector I am still amazed at how much ice damage I see. My advice, hire a professional to handle this aspect of seasonal maintenance. If you prefer to do it yourself, make sure you obtain good instruction from a professional.

3) Minimize damage to masonry by keeping ice below pool tile and coping.

Pool tile that is rated as “frost-proof” can be misleading. Ice against pool tile expands and contracts every day as temperatures go up and down, this will break any tile and can also lift pool coping off it’s setting bed. Masonry damage is very expensive to repair.

Winter ice must be maintained below tile. Care should be taken to NOT exceed the levels specified by your winter cover installer as the cover is designed to float on water when bearing the weight of heavy snow. Typically you should not exceed 8″ below the bottom of pool tile.

Maintenance of ice levels in pools often requires 3-4 pump outs between fall closing and spring opening- this is based on average rainfall.

4) Utilize a good quality winter safety cover to keep pets and people safe as well as keep fall debris out of pool.

Our #1 reason for using a good quality winter cover is safety.

#2 is to keep the massive amounts of leaves and debris out as these will overwhelm the sanitizer and allow pool to turn green with algae by spring.

Failing to maintain clear, sanitary water will encourage staining of the finish that will require draining pool to remove. Unsanitary water also provides a breeding place for mosquitos.


There are other things a pool owner should be aware of, such as protecting critical components such as heater and filter, but these are the (4) critical things for protecting your investment.

For more information please contact Glen Gate Company.


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Automatic Pool Covers- Tips For Use and Special Safety Memo

Bob Russell | April 16, 2014 in Equipment maintenance,Pool,Pool equipment,Pool safety,Pool Service | Comments (0)

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Pools Are Fun! Great Exercise! Wonderful For Family… and… They Require:


“Layers of safety”

The news out of Indiana this weekend was awful. Twin girls wandered into the neighbor’s yard and drowned in their pool.

It wasn’t a “normal” drowning – the pool was covered. Unfortunately, the cover was full of rainwater.

In the pool business we are trained to think in terms of, “layers of safety. As professionals we train pool owners to also think this way- to not rely on one thing,  because things can go wrong, systems can fail- a terrible reminder of this is the news of the loss of these beautiful 2-year-old girls.

Pool covers are considered a reliable safety barrier- a layer of protection;  but they can fill up with rainwater. Unfortunately, in 2011, Indiana decided that an automatic pool cover served as an adequate stand-alone barrier.

In Connecticut, an automatic pool cover does NOT satisfy the barrier code. Pools in our state require a barrier- such as a fence- the code is very strict on how such barriers are constructed.  Here is a link for summary of CT pool barrier code.

Swimming pools – part one.pdf

Automatic Pool Covers

The automatic pool cover is a very popular feature in the Northeast; and for good reasons:

  1. Covers increase efficiency and save on operation costs by containing heat; preventing water and sanitizer loss.
  2. Covers keep pools cleaner than uncovered pools.
  3. Automatic covers can extend the length of the “normal” pool season (for reasons cited above).
  4. Covers offer a layer of safety.

The Layer Of Safety That Every Pool Requires

Adult / professional supervision remains the #1 requirement for reducing or eliminating swimming pool accidents.

In the case of an automatic pool cover, the manufacturer recommends having a system in place to keep rain water pumped off. In Connecticut, a cover without water on top is not enough- there must also be a barrier. For some, this is not enough and a gate alarm might be installed on the barrier. Professionals think in terms of layers of protection. I highly recommend for YOUR peace of mind, that you employ an expert in the field to discuss and review these things. One should enjoy their swimming pool and not feel fear or anxiety over safety.

Remember, in Connecticut, to hire a licensed pool professional.

For further reading, visit the APSP, NESPA or CONSPA websites and locate the excellent literature available. I recommend “Layers Of protection” and “Children Aren’t Waterproof.”


Enjoy your swimming pool!

Again… “Is My Pool Safe?”

Bob Russell | August 8, 2013 in Equipment maintenance,Pool,Pool safety,Pool Service,Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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It always shakes us up a bit to think that a swimming pool- a symbol of recreation, laughter and family summer fun- could be otherwise. The recent news of entrapment and near drowning in a swimming pool has again shaken the confidence of pool owners -or those who might consider owning a pool.
I have reviewed this issue before (see previous post).
The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP) has released the statement below. For those of us here in Connecticut- we’ve been down this road before.
At Glen Gate- where safety is engineered into our design and woven into our service- we cannot imagine a swimming pool that is NOT safe. I must admit, I get mad over this issue. For us at Glen Gate, it is not only unacceptable to build or service a pool with entrapment risks, it is criminal.
When I do pool inspections for Real Estate Agents and see loose or missing suction outlet covers or other missing layers of protection I take the opportunity to educate and advise, and, I try hard to hide my anger. But, I have no problem advising a would-be Buyer or Real Estate Agent to find another service provider who gets it right.
My advice to all pool owners: 1) Find a licensed service provider! 2) Interview your service provider well; in CT,  ask them if they are licensed!
Safety and recreational swimming go hand in hand- it is basic and foundational!
The details of this incident are not yet out so I should temper my comments: I have found that most of the suction outlet problems I see in the field during inspections, are on pools or spas where the Homeowner is handling their own service. I do believe the pool industry has greatly improved in this area! While it’s not 100% yet, I think the facts will emerge- we’re dealing with another layer of “service providers” here, namely: unlicensed service providers, homeowners, caretakers and uncle Fred.
As far as I can see in Connecticut and New York, MOST service providers have gotten this issue right!
Thanks for reading.
Below is the APSP release.

Dear Member,
Yesterday a national recording artist’s son nearly drowned in a residential pool. While the specifics of the incident aren’t known at this time, there is some indication it was a limb entrapment due to a missing drain cover.
This serves as an important reminder about safety and entrapment avoidance in pools and spas, particularly residential pools and spas built prior to the enactment of the VGB and the
ANSI/APSP-7 Standard . This also creates a unique opportunity for you, the pool and spa professional, to reach out to your customers (as well as potential new service customers) and even local media to bring these pools into compliance with the ANSI-7 Standard, which was developed to eliminate this very hazard. The design recommendations and construction practices in this Standard are based upon sound engineering principles, research, and field experience. The Standard is referenced in the 2009 International Residential Code, the 2009 International Building Code, the 2012 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code (ISPSC), and has been adopted by many state and local authorities.
The ANSI/APSP-7 Standard allows for several options with regard to existing pools, including drain disablement or converting the suction outlet to a return inlet. Where suction outlets (drains) are used, they should be equipped with fittings (covers) that are certified in compliance with the ANSI/APSP-16 Standard for Suction Fittings for Use in Swimming Pools, Wading Pools, Spas, and Hot Tubs as referenced by the federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act, along with one or more of the additional measures provided in the ANSI/APSP Standard (multiple main drain system, gravity flow system, engineered vent system or properly listed SVRS).
As you are aware, residential pools and spas are not required to meet these safety requirements unless specified in state or local code. Hence you should not make the statement that the pool must be upgraded because of federal law. You can point out, however, that public pools throughout the country are required to install new suction fittings and other necessary means, and that as a residential pool owner, they can get the same level of protection for their family and friends. Any pool with a missing or broken drain cover is at the highest risk for an entrapment incident.
Please also contact your customers and your local media to emphasize these important safety tips:
  • Never enter a pool or spa that has a loose, broken, or missing suction fitting or drain cover.
  • Immediately notify the pool or spa owner/operator if you find a loose, broken or missing drain cover.
  • Never play or swim near drains or suction fittings.
  • Contact an APSP pool and spa professional to repair and bring the pool or spa into compliance with the ANSI/APSP-7 Standard.
That is your consumer message.
Feel free to refer your customers and others to or for general drain cover safety information and tips. In addition, you can purchase brochures on Entrapment Avoidance Guidelines or copies of the ANSI/APSP-7 Standard from . Please offer your services to help replace and upgrade pool drain covers and do an inspection so that pools and spas can be enjoyed safely. It’s just good business.
Carvin DiGiovanni
Senior Director, Technical & Standards

Preparing For Sandy

Bob Russell | October 26, 2012 in Pool,Pool chemicals,Pool safety,Pool Service,Uncategorized,Winterize | Comments (0)

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Preparing For Sandy

Seems like only a short while ago we were preparing for and cleaning up after Irene.

As a Pool Owner, here are some things you should know in a short check list format:

1) Secure deck furniture.

2) Automatic pool covers- Sandy is being called a “Superstorm” because she is merging with a winter storm as she chugs up our coast. This means a LOT of rainfall and flooding over a few days.

If your pool is still open, we recommend opening automatic covers so heavy rain can fill the pool and not your closed cover which could become severely damaged.

We also recommend this because, should your area lose power, the cover will be “stuck” closed. A sump pump cannot keep up with this volume of rainfall- especially if power is out.

(If you have a Grando style automatic pool cover which drains off into pool, your decision to leave it open or closed should be based on the risk of wind-blown branches or debris which could damage your cover.)

Yes, your pool will get messy and filled with leaves. This is a preferrable outcome to a severely damaged auto cover. Leaves and branches can be scooped and picked out of the pool afterwards.

3) If you can winterize your pool before the storm arrives, do it!

4) Water table issues: Pools located in areas where ground water can surge should NOT be pumped too low. It is not the end of the world if your pool overflows! Consider the following:

An overflowing pool is preferrable to an opened hydrostatic relief valve (which requires a diver to re-set). Hydrostat valves can pop and become stuck open when water table surges up and above water level inside pool. It’s just not a good idea to remove large amounts of water to “make room” for the heavy rains. You are putting your pool at risk.

Normal levels of winter pool chemicals are diluted during heavy rains and will  NOT cause damage to grass or gardens this time of year. Chlorine dissipates rapidly on the ground. Don’t worry about your pool over flowing during heavy downpour.

There is a real risk of floating a swimming pool or buckling the shell if it is left empty or partially empty. Leave pool at normal winter water levels (between bottom of tile and no lower than 11″ below bottom of tile.)

5) Contact your pool service professional for special situations or if you are unclear what to do.

6) For downed trees and property damage- please feel free to contact us if you are in our area.

Our service team specializes in storm clean-up. Rest assured we will keep an eye on things.

If you have a significant amount of landscape soil wash into your pool- call us to assess the situation. It may be we can save the water. In some heavy wash-in situations we will need to drain and clean out the pool.

For those of you on the coast- just let your pool fill up as rains increase. Your pool structure is safest when full should a wave come ashore or there be severe high tides.

For now, we pray our customers are safe and their homes protected from trees, high winds and floods.

Call if you need anything!

Bob and the service team at Glen Gate Company


Post Irene Clean-Up For Swimming Pools

Bob Russell | September 1, 2011 in Pool,Pool chemicals,Pool cleaning,Pool equipment,Pool safety,Sanitizers,Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Cleaning Up After The Storm

In my previous post I wrote out some tips for preparing for storms with heavy rain and strong winds. I hope you found them helpful.

In this post, I’ll lay out some post-storm clean-up  advice in some detail, using the FAQs format.

Q: What about wash-ins?

A: This week I have done a lot of “triage” work- deciding which pools have water that can be saved and which need to be drained and refilled with new water. We can clean up some pools that look “too far gone” while other pools that seem in pretty good shape, we decide to drain re-fill.

The key factors in my decision to save water or drain and re-fill include:

  1. Amount of silt and organic material in pool- Less than an inch of silt and mulch on a pool’s floor is generally easy to vacuum out. Silt that is in suspension (i.e. brown murky water) can be dropped to floor by “flocking” the water with an agent that drops suspended fine particles to floor.
  2. City Water vs. Well Water- If a pool Owner is on a well, or has city water but is in a hurry, I often advise that pool water be replaced. It’s just quicker. If you are on a well and must truck in water- this will add to clean-up expense and will be one of your deciding factors.
  3. Phosphates and Nitrates- This is an important decision-maker for pool professionals.  Often a wash-in will bring with it fertilizers or worse (e.g. in cases where septic systems in area are full with rain water and  overflowing). Phosphates and Nitrates can be detected with a good test kit in the field. The issue is this: Phosphates and Nitrates encourage plant growth AND interfere significantly with chlorination, this will make clearing the pool more difficult, and sometimes near impossible. So, this is a major determining factor for me when making the decision to save or change pool water.

Q: What about power failures?:

A: When power is knocked out and it is unclear when it will be restored, it is critical to protect the pool water – you have about 3 days to do this:

  1. Open up your winterize supplies and locate your chlorine floaters. By adding chlorine floaters to your pool- you can hold the water for weeks.
  2. Remove heavy debris like piles of leaves, branches and other organic matter as this will cloud pool and use up chlorine.
  3. Maintain a 3.0 ppm chlorine level.
  4. Other benefits include: Prevents mosquitoes from breeding in water. Prevents spread of algae- making clean-up much quicker when power is restored. Keeps water potable, or at least suitable for flushing toilets if necessary.

Remember the Health issues in Florida with all those foreclosed homes with pools? It is critical to protect the water and to do so early in a prolonged power outage.

Q: What if sea water got into my pool?

A: Salt water- especially if diluted- is generally NOT going to hurt your pool finish or equipment. However, if salt levels exceed about 4,000 ppm, you should consult with your pool service professional.

Q: My equipment is in a pit or basement that flooded, is it ruined?

A: A gas heater should NOT be activated until a professional, licensed service technician has inspected it. Gas valves that have been immersed under water should be considered unsafe for use. Your pump motor should be inspected as well; sometimes a pump motor can be dried out, reconditioned and saved.  Generally electronic equipment cannot be saved if immersed for a prolonged period of time. Your service professional will need to determine this.

This pool was hit by salt water from the Long Island Sound. We were able to drop sediment to the bottom, vacuum it out and save the water. Not everyone was as fortunate.



As of 9/1/11 there are still may pool Owners without power- (2) things to focus on in such cases:

1) Minimize organic matter in pool as possible- remove leaves, twigs and branches by hand or with a leaf net.

2) Maintain a chlorine count of around 3 ppm. This can be done using chlorine floaters. If you do not have floaters on hand, you can make your own from plastic jugs or other creative means. Be careful not to allow chlorine tabs to come into direct contact with pool finish as a permanent “chemical burn” mark may result.

I hope you are finding these posts to be timely and helpful. Happy Labor Day!

The Recall

Bob Russell | May 28, 2011 in Pool,Pool safety | Comments (0)

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What’s the real story?
On Friday of memorial Day weekend, the government issued a recall of the VGB and ANSI-7 approved “main drain” covers. (Remember, “main drains” are now called “suction outlets” ).
The media- as it often does- reported this story in such a way that produced some unwarranted fear among our residential pool Owners.
I spent 1/2 hour on phone that weekend with a Client who was afraid to swim in her pool and was upset that we had installed a main drain cover that was on the recall list.
She’s fine now… as is her pool and spa for bathing.
Some details and thoughts on this issue:
1) The recall has to do with concerns over accuracy of flow ratings stamped on the covers- in the rush to develop and mass produce suction outlet covers by the 2008 deadline- companies such as Hayward, Waterway and a few others used “independent testing firms” to confirm the safe maximum water flow through each cover. The new covers where then stamped with this data which is expressed in gallons per miniute (gpms).
The difficulty came when it was discovered that different testing labs were rating the same covers at different gpms. The inconsistency and confusion surrounding this issue has been attributed to a lack of national testing protocols and standards. For example:  Should a cover’s capacity rating be measured in gallons per minute (gpms) or feet per second at cover surface (fps)?
Velocity of water at the suction outlet cover is critical in preventing certain types of entrapment such as hair entanglement.
An example of new testing standards emerging is in the newly implemented “whole head of hair” test. This test uses a wig and mannequin head rather than the older “pony tail test”.
When it was discovered that suction cover outlet ratings varied significantly from testing firm to testing firm, the recall was ordered and new testing standards are being put in place.
2) Pools and Spas with dual suction points are NOT part of the recall.
3) It should be noted that the covers we have been installing since the VGB Act became law (Dec. 19, 2008) are superior to the old in many ways:
These new covers are made of better plastic (stronger, more durable); they are also better designed to protect from entrapment by hair-entanglement.
That said, by law, a service company cannot install a recalled suction outlet cover.
Other important considerations:
Statistics reveal that incidents and accidents involving a pool or spa suction outlet almost always involve: a) an improperly constructed pool or spa b) a missing or broken suction outlet cover. Data also shows that the majority of accidents involves small children.
This recall is about correcting the flow ratings that are stamped on suction outlet covers; it is also about correcting and standardizing procedures used by testing firms. Flow ratings are critical to get right- especially in commercial pools and spas employing multiple pumps; but again, a pool or spa owner should realize that these recalled covers are still superior to the old covers they replaced. It is my judgement that the reporting of this issue is a bit sensationalized.
This pool’s single floor suction outlet was “split” during a recent renovation. The third “dummy drain” was added to handle water table. New safety codes require pool companies to bring older pools up to the current standard when such work is done.
If you have any questions about the recall or obtaining a C of O, please contact us!
For further reading on this subject please visit:
Enjoy your pool!

Safety First?Appliance Installations- Part 1- Heaters

Bob Russell | December 4, 2010 in Equipment maintenance,Pool safety,Pool Service | Comments (0)


Why do smart and successful people take risks and do dumb things?

I performed a pool inspection this past summer and came across a strange and dangerous situation. Unfortunately, I see a LOT of this sort of thing.

 In May 1995, a tennis star (Vitas Gerulaitas) took a nap in an apartment that also housed the pool equipment. He was 40 years old and making a spirited comeback. What he didn’t know was that the new high-tech pool  heater had been set up incorrectly plus the vent was positioned at the air condintioning intake. The apartment filled up with carbon monoxide. Vitas never woke up. The event made international news.

When I see problem installations I report them in no uncertain terms. Usually folks are responsible and will deal with a dangerous situation, but sometimes I hear:  “…well, we’ve been doing it this way for years and haven’t had a problem before (or yet)…”

When I hear this, I do my best to sound an appropriate (and ethically responsible) alarm; but often, I must leave the Owner with the information and my urging to make things right.

My point?

Look at this picture. It’s an example of some of the things I see doing pool inspections.  That’s a 400,000 btu heater installed beneath a shingled roof and propped up with a board. It’s a fire hazard. Making matters worse, the roof weighs about 150 pounds and has nails protruding below making this heater difficult and hazardous to service properly.

In my report I pointed this out as an “incorrect installation” and “a fire hazard.” The cartaker of this very nice property informed me: “… we’ve been doing it this way for a long time…” and “…our pool service person works on the heater…”

Maybe we’ll see the charred remains of this building in the papers someday. I hope and pray no one is hurt. Here’s an excerpt from the NY Times, 1995 May 23:

Today the pool mechanic, Bartholomew Torpey, and his employer, East End Pools and Courts, also known as Recreational Concepts of Sag Harbor, were arraigned in Suffolk County Court here on charges of criminally negligent homicide. Mr. Torpey and the company pleaded not guilty.

My point? Be sure your appliances are installed in accordance with local, state and national codes as well as the manufacturer’s specifications, and hire licensed and responsible service people.  End of story. Thanks for reading.

“…Is my pool/spa safe?”

Bob Russell | June 30, 2010 in Equipment maintenance,Pool equipment,Pool renovations,Pool safety,Pool Service,Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Is my pool/spa safe?

I enjoy writing about the joy and recreational benefits of owning a pool or spa. When it comes to safety, things get very sober and serious for pool and spa Owners and those in the business.

In the last decade there have been several changes to standards and codes in the pool and spa industry.  The question I am asked most frequently is: “Is my pool or spa safe?”

Today’s safety codes are complex. Pools and spas are also complex. Most pool and spa Owners are bombarded with media hype, marketing gimmicks and general misinformation. I’d like to help. Here are the basic things I look for while inspecting a pool or spa. 

 1) Suction Outlet Covers: Floor and wall drain covers should be in place and secured by stainless steel screws. Residential pools and spas built since 2003-2004 are required to have two suction outlets that are spaced 3 feet apart.

Spa above with a single suction outlet- built before 2003.

2) Anti-entrapment Covers- In December of 2008, all [existing] commercial pools were required to install specially designed “anti-entrapment” suction outlet covers. Residential pools were to have existing covers replaced when they failed, or at the discretion of the homeowner. Note: The new covers are designed to prevent an object (such as a human body) from creating a seal over a suction outlet; they are also designed to prevent hair entanglement. As expected, these new covers are much more expensive than the old style; they are also made of extraordinarily strong material- unlike the older covers which are relatively easy to break.

Should you replace your spa or pool floor suction covers now?

That’s a good question to ask your service professional!

Some floor suction outlets (e.g. such as the single suction outlet pictured above) are more of a risk than others- it depends on how the pool or spa is plumbed.

The first and most important “layer of safety” is the most obvious: make sure the suction outlet covers are in place and secured.

Spa pictured above is fitted with an approved anti-entrapment cover.

3) SVRS Or, Vacuum Release System- A vacuum release system is an additional layer of safety that became law in 2005  for new residential swimming pools or spas

Vacuum release units (SVRS) vary in shape and size but are all designed to do the same basic thing: release an object that has made a seal over a suction outlet. 

Some ask, “…how can people get stuck on a main drain?” The answer requires a discussion of physics but in short, there can be tremendous force at a suction port that has been sealed. A one horsepower pump (for instance) has enough force to trap a grown man and hold him fast. Some drowning accidents have in fact happened in this way.

Pictured above is a common mechanical SVRS installed on suction-side of pump.

Is your pool or spa equipped with an SVRS?

Is it operational?

These are questions to ask your service professional!



When inspecting your pool or spa, look for the following  “layers of protection”:

1)      Secured and approved anti-entrapment suction outlet covers. This is the most important layer of safety!

2)      Dual suction outlets - pools built after 2003-2004. (A second outlet can be added to existing pools.)

3)      SVRS system (vacuum release) - required in pools built after April 2005. SVRS systems can be added onto any pool for an additional layer of [anti-entrapment] protection.


If you have concerns or questions about your pool or spa after reading this post, you should contact your pool professional and get your questioned answered! Safety is nothing to guess at.