The VGBA Standard Just Changed: What Your Company Needs to Know
By Steve Barnes-Director of Science & Compliance for AquaStar and Chairman of the VGBA Standard Writing Committee
On May 24, 2021, the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act changed. Specifically, the US Consumer Product Safety Standard APSP-16 is what changed, which is the drain cover standard referenced in Federal Law. This article will give you a brief overview of why the changes are being implemented and what action is required on your part(spoiler alert-it's very simple once you know what to do)!
ANSI/APSP/ICC-16 is an American National Standard for Suction Outlet Fitting Assemblies, otherwise known as SOFAs, for use in pools, spas, and hot tubs. So why did the standard change? At the highest level, all ANSI standards have to go through periodic maintenance. This means that at least every 5 years they must be reviewed. At that time,they can be reaffirmed if everything is perfect, revised, or even be discontinued. The CPSP ultimately found that changes to the standard were in the public interest and based on that they voted unanimously to make the 2017 edition the successor standard. Most of the changes fall on manufacturers, however, there are some important points for Pool Professionals to know that we will cover below.
Keep in mind, the SOFA model is defined as the cover and the pipe (including pipe orientation and pipe size). Each pipe size will now have its own flow rating, so that will be an important change that you will need to be aware of in the field. Another aspect is every sump must be defined as tested by the manufacturer. So, the old Figure 2 with the 1.5 pipe diameters as the minimum sump depth has been deleted and replaced. That concept can still be used; however, the cover manufacturer must provide the physical dimensions of the sump and not just the formula that you have to measure pipe and calculate sump depth. Instead, that will be provided in the product specifications.
This is a rolling, manufacturing date-driven change so it's important to understand what that means. Product that was manufactured before May 24, 2021, remains legal to buy, sell, install, and use until the end of the product's installed service life. You will be able to recognize these products because certified compliant products will be marked with either ASME/ANSI A112.19.8 _" 2007, 2008a, 2009b, VGB-2008, or ANSI/APSP-16 2011. For products certified to those standards, follow those instructions. Anything manufactured on or after May 24, 2021, will be marked with VGBA-2017. Products will also be marked "blockable" or "unblockable" to give you more information on the product you have in-hand. Instead of having a floor or in-wall flow rate, you're most likely going to see something like "FOR FLOW RATES, SEE INSTRUCTIONS" because most drain covers are intended to go over different size pipes, applications, and sumps. Each one of those configurations is going to have its own minimum sump depth and flow rating.
As a Pool Professional, it's important that you inspect drain covers in the pools and hot tubs that you visit to ensure they are assembled properly, including riser rings and that they are not missing screws or compromised in any way. It is also important to confirm that the covers are within the manufacturer-specified lifespan, which may vary by the cover but often is 5 years from the date of installation, with or without water. A key takeaway of this article should be always read and follow the instructions of the product in hand!