States Face New Pool Regulations

Lawmakers in South Carolina and Florida have passed new pool regulations that will impact staffing and construction.

Meanwhile, another law with similar ramifications is pending in Illinois.

In South Carolina, legislators have passed updated lifeguard requirements. Previously, the state mandated one guard per 2,000 square foot of pool. That made sense when pools were essentially just square boxes noted Jim Headley, executive director of the South Carolina Recreation & Parks Association.

The new law was signed by Governor Nikki Haley on May 15, and applies only to Type A publically owned pools (No waterparks, homeowners association, nonprofit or hotel/motel pools). It takes into account the number of individuals in the water. For example, a pool that’s 3,000 square feet or less with 25 people or less swimming, one guard is required. For 26 to 50 people, the same size pool would require two guards.

“From an operators perspective, we like the flexibility of being able to guard by square foot and also by the number of patrons … It gives us much more flexibility yet still ensures the safety of the swimmers and helps us manage part-time wages and part-time budgets,” said Ray Dunham, principal at Raymond K. Dunham & Associates in Simpsonville, S.C. “We’re very pleased with the new law.”

A Florida law gives local building departments’ new authority over pool builders constructing new public facilities. Under Florida HB 1263, builders must now work with local building departments, rather than county health departments, on plans, permits and inspections. The legislation took effect in April and is intended to streamline Florida’s health department. The health department will still issue operating permits for new and existing commercial pools; however, the other responsibilities will go to building departments. This means some builders will likely go from dealing with one agency to many.

“Every individual city is allowed to maintain its own building department,” said Don Ball, president of The Pool Works in Tarpon Springs. “There are 13 different building departments within this one county. We’re going from one to 13.”

Other builders are concerned that building departments won’t be able to handle the new process.

To help ease transition, officials are offering Webinars and briefings.

“We created an implementation plan … soon after the Governor signed the bill, and posted it online [atmyfloridaeh.com],” said Bob Vincent, environmental administrator, Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Water Programs. “It explains what the CHDs will do and what the Building officials will do. … We have many other useful documents on that Web page as well.”

However, “we have a few issues to resolve still such as the differences between the building pool code and the health pool code, and certain types of variances that could be heard by DOH still,” he added.

In Illinois, both houses of legislature have passed revisions to the Swimming Facility Act. As of press time, SB3727 was set to be delivered to the governor for signature. The bill requires any entity operating a pool, including organizations incorporated under the General Not for Profit Corporation Act to obtain a license; architects and engineers must undergo a prequalification process; and there is a new fee schedule for licensing.

SB3727 was initially introduced by Senator Don Harmon (D) and the chief sponsor in the Illinois House of Representatives was Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D). According to Sen. Harmon’s office, the new policies will help provide funding for pool inspections and speed up the process for approving plans for new facilities and renovations.

That has the support of the health department. “Over the years, with the needed modifications to swimming facilities due to federal laws, VGBA, ADA … , as well as an increase in the number of swimming facilities being built, the Department has been struggling with an unmanageable workload,” said Melaney Arnold, Illinois Department of Public Health communications manager. “The new fee structure will allow the Department to hire additional engineers to approve plans more quickly. SB3727 will allow the Department to meet the increased demands of the swimming facility industry, while providing necessary protection to the public.”

Some designers are still skeptical.

“We will have to see how the bill is presented to the industry and how to work with the health department in completing aquatic projects in the state,” said Scot Hunsaker, chief operating officer of St. Louis-based Counsilman-Hunsaker.

By Kendra Kozen, Aquatics International | 8.2.2012