Category Archives: Regulation

Facility Design & Construction Module MAHC

The Facility Design & Construction module for the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) has just been posted by the CDC today, July 20, 2012 for public comment. This module will likely have the greatest impact for the design, regulatory and construction community and not as much for operators as other modules. The deadline for public comments is October 14, 2012. Counsilman-Hunsaker strongly encourages everyone in the aquatic community to review and participate in this process.

If you are a frequent reader of Hydrologicblog, you will have seen the responses that have been compiled by Counsilman – Hunsaker and submitted as a friend of the industry through the public comment process.  If you would like to read these responses, please visit the regulation section of the blog.  We would be very interested in your comments on this section to be included in our response.

MAHC Facility Design & Construction Module Abstract

The sound design and construction of swimming pools, spas, and aquatic venues are paramount to ensuring safety of patrons who use these facilities. The Facility Design & Construction Module contains requirements for new pool construction that includes:

1) Design/construction aspects of the pool shell that include general shape, design, and slope requirements;

2) Design/construction aspects of the aquatic venue that include decks, lighting, electrical, wastewater, and fencing;

3) Design/construction aspects of specialty bodies of water and features that include spas, wave pools, slide pools, wading pools, and infinity edges; and

4) Design/construction parameters for pool equipment and under what conditions its use is acceptable including starting blocks, moveable floors, bulkheads, and diving boards.

In addition to the Facility Design & Construction module, an annex section is provides support information to assist users in understanding the background of the provisions.

The Model Aquatic Health Code Steering Committee and Technical Committees appreciate your willingness to comment on the draft MAHC modules. Click here to download comment form.

All public comments will filter back to the Technical Committee for review before the module is officially released.

MAHC Background

The Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) effort began in February 2005. The first industry standard was issued in 1958. In the subsequent 50 years, there have been at least 50 different state codes and many independent county codes. What was required in one jurisdiction may be illegal in another. It is clear that this historic approach is not working. Thus, the National Swimming Pool Foundation took a leadership position and provided funding to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for the creation of the MAHC. The MAHC is intended to transform the patch work of industry codes into a data-driven, knowledge-based, risk reduction effort to prevent disease, injuries and promote healthy water experiences. To view the latest updates regarding the Model Aquatic Health Code go to

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Illinois Swimming Pool Code Passes House and Senate

In a April 30, 2012 post on Hydrologic titled “Illinois Swimming Facility Legislation in Final Stages of Passage” we discussed significant changes in the swimming pool code for the state of Illinois.  According the the Illinois General Assembly website, Bill SB3727 has passed both the House and Senate and now requires the Governor’s signature to become law.

Lightning – Making an Informed Decision

One of the responsibilities of an Aquatic Facility Manager is to make an informed decision on when it is safe to swim.  This includes the quality of the water, risk management support and the presence of bad weather.  It is not uncommon for our firm to be consulted by aquatic facility operators when developing a policy for lightning storms.  Unfortunately, there are conflicting statements about what is in the best interest of public health and there does not seem to be a perfect answer. 

When these discussions come up, we often refer individuals to two publications to provide a perspective on the issues that need to be considered when making an informed decision for their particular facility.  In the November / December Aquatics International article, ”When Lightning Strikes”, Tom Griffith and Matt Griffin review injury statistics, code requirements and risk management variables.  This article summarizes:  “It’s impossible to eliminate all risk associated with pools without also eliminating the numerous benefits also associated with them. Competent operators and managers of aquatics facilities should be focusing on actual risks that are known to cause catastrophic injury and death, not on an urban myth that has no supporting evidence. Remember, hundreds of indoor pools are open every day during thunderstorms, and there’s never been a documented case of death attributed to lightning. Remember, too, that people swimming indoors during a thunderstorm are as safe as they can be.”

A second source that may be consulted is the publication Lifesaving Resources, LLC and an article written by Gerald M. Dworkin in 1998 and revised in June of 2012 titled “Emergency Procedures During Thunder & Lighting Storms.”  This article describes basic lightning facts and sample Standard Operating Procedures.  This article states: “All patrons and facility staff should be cleared from the water and the surrounding area (pool deck or beach) immediately at the first sounding of thunder or the first sighting of lightning. Because lightning is attracted to the tallest object in the area, patrons and facility staff should not be allowed to congregate under trees, umbrellas, or other tall objects. Everyone should leave the facility, go indoors, or stay in their automobiles until the storm passes.”  It goes on to state that “we advocate that the same principles that pertain to outdoor aquatic and recreation facilities should be followed for indoor facilities as well.”

Does the Commercial Swimming Pool Industry Have a Voice?

I was recently asked by a friend and leader in the aquatic industry to comment on the Pool Genius Network blog titled “Fix The APSP”.  The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP – formerly NSPI) has a long history of supporting the swimming pool industry.  Over the years it has had to adjust and adapt to changing markets and organizational realities.  From a 30,000 foot view, this organization has contributed greatly to the industry and the support of many entrepreneurial efforts of individuals entering the business.  The thousands of industry professionals that have invested their time in achievement of these goals are greatly appreciated and I would like to say “Thank You!”

Tomorrow is a new day with new challenges and I question whether the industry and APSP are prepared.  My industry perspective indicates that we will likely see more regulations, an increase in federal mandates and greater legal challenges.  All of these initiatives may result in positive or negative change.  The key to success is making knowledgeable decision with accurate and timely information that provides the best value to the user, operator, owner, and public health.  Based on the experience of the recent VGB and ADA federal mandates, I do not believe our industry is well represented to participate in, much less lead, a knowledgeable decision making effort for the future of aquatics.

Rightly or wrongly today’s APSP is seen and a trade association with a strong foundation in residential pools.  Recently, it has been unsuccessful in presenting the facts with integrity to effect positive change.  I remember Carvin DiGiovanni reporting in 2007 to the APSP Commercial Council in Washington DC about the great accomplishments of the new VGB legislation that was just passed and the APSP’s leadership role.  What alarmed me was the lack of any communication with the Council that was directly involved in the commercial portion of the industry of which this legislation would impact.  This lack of honest transparency has been damaging to the industry.  The APSP needs to focus on what is best for the industry instead of following the crowd to be associated with the prevailing winds of change.  What our industry requires is leadership with vision and purpose, not a meandering behemoth looking for the next public relations opportunity. 

In fairness to the APSP, since it reorganization in 2003 it appears their primary goal has been trying to survive.  In July 2004, the APSP reported total assets of $19.0 million, in its most recent reporting it stated total assets in June of 2010 of $9.6 million.  This is roughly a 50% decrease in six years.  In addition, the 2010 tax return reported a loss of $616,000 from operations.  How has the industry benefited from this $9.4 million investment by the APSP?  It is understandable for an organization to become myopic when under significant stress; however, this does not help our industry.  Can these aquatic industry resources be used more wisely with greater positive impact?

So in answering the question “How To Fix The APSP?” the following are my suggested action items:

  1. Develop a fiscally sustainable business model.  It appears from my perspective that the loss of the NSPI tradeshow has financially crippled the APSP and todays primary sources of revenue are membership and selling of standards.  Given the recent financial trends reported by the Association this model does not appear to be working.  Is the current direction a long and slow death?
  2. Do No Harm.  For whatever reason, the APSP has attempted to be the most dominate voice at the federal level.  The harm is that this voice is not always the most knowledgeable on needed change or understanding potential unintended consequences.  In my opinion, the poor execution of this self-appointed industry voice has caused tremendous harm to our collective integrity and financial damage to the industry as a whole.  Based on current performance, no voice would be better than this voice. 
  3. Understand the difference between the needs of residential and commercial aquatics.  Whether it is drain grates, pool barriers / access or the skill involved in creating an aquatic experience, there are tremendous differences in uses, needs, designs, construction techniques and operational requirements for these different markets.  The APSP one size fits all approach has caused significant difficulties in the industry.  In my opinion, the APSP focuses on the residential and retail portion of the industry while trying to benefit from its historical role regarding industry standards.  The frenetic approach to a holistic industry solution for standards has been quite alarming.  The most recent example is the May 25, 2012 press release announcing a memorandum of understanding trying to explain the disjointed role of the APSP in their standard pursuit. 
  4. “The Voice”  The 2004 APSP Strategic Plan had as one of their objectives to “Increase awareness of the association’s position as “The Voice” for the pool and spa/hot tub industries.  I question whether it is prudent or possible to effectively represent so many different facets of such a large and complex industry.  With over sixty industry organizations – is it not just a little arrogant to be “The Voice” without asking first?    It appears that in an attempt to do it all, nothing is getting done well.

So, as the call for a Fix is screamed from the aquatic industry rooftops, focus on sound a sustainable financial model the places quality above quantity. 

Portable Lifts Grandfathered For Pool ADA

New Rules outlined by the DOJ this week allows for portable lifts purchased before March 15, 2012 to be acceptable if kept in place.  According to an article published by Aquatics International today, DOJ will not be enforcing the fixed lift requirement for those operators who purchased a portable lift before March 15, 2012.    The DOJ went on to clarify that for municipal facilities (Type 2) that every pool does not have to be accessible.