Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Safety Act

And Safety Vacuum Release Systems


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If the jobsite is inside or just outside the "box" formed by the 118,405,101, and 23 freeways I can come look at your pool for a free estimate 818-345-POOL(7665) more details on the bottom of this page (and please read note below) work done WITHOUT draining pool!


At the bottom of this page are links to Los Angeles County Health Dept. Bulletins (Adobe PDF files)

Note:please understand I have come across pools or spas or combinations of both that may have 10,12,sometimes up to 16 drain covers and multiple jet/filter/solar pumps. In order to give you an accurate estimate,I must determine what pump each drain connects to by blowing CO2 and or colored food dye through plumbing lines and this could take hours. In a rare case like this,I may ask for a deposit or to be paid for my time which is applicable to estimate to complete job. If you do not wish to pay anything,I can give you a ballpark "guesstimate",but not in writing. Thank you in advance for being understanding.

The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool And Safety act is a mandatory federal requirement for suction entrapment avoidance and also will make available 2 million in grants to states that meet safety guidelines to train enforcement personnel and to educate about the dangers of entrapment and drowning and the standards of the safety act.

Public pools will need approved drains and/or pumping systems that comply with anti-entrapment standards...the fines can be exceptionally high- up to 1.825 million PER body of water for not complying with new drain law.

I have heard that residential pools will have to be updated when sold starting in 2011



Mechanical Vacuum Release Systems



The device shown below is a mechanical device that lets air into the pump in the advent of entrapment and automatically resets itself - there is also a manually resettable version for areas where a manual reset is required by local code.

The beauty of this device is simplicity - no electrical hook up,no plumbing or changing of the pump,and cost savings - this device,in combination with approved drain covers can save a building owner thousands in labor,equipment,refilling pool and chemical costs.

However,I have noticed one potential problem with this device: If you have an older pool with 1.5" or smaller plumbing and an over-sized pump such as a 1 or 1.5 HP Pentair Whisperflo the suction may be so strong it can activate the device,especially when a vacuum hose is attached to skimmer. A stronger spring is available and/or reducing the impeller size may be required.

The Vac-Alert (shown at the top of this page) works on basically the same principle as the Vac-Less system shown below but is a more robust system and higher up from the ground. However,this system is a little more expensive and must be manually reset,so lets say a bunch of leaves get into pool and block the flow of water this device will activate until the service tech arrives to reset the unit. I have links to both below photos.

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Vac Alert

Vacless system


Automatic Pump Shut Offs



This device made by Stingl shuts off pump in case of entrapment

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This link takes you to the makers of the Stingl device

The device above shuts off pump when blockage is sensed through tube attached to pump or influent plumbing and will replace existing timer and also has additional features such as fireman switch for heater,power back up,auxiliary input for pump control,and will prevent pump from running dry! (however,I have heard from service techs that this device has a high false alarm rate and must be reset and is generally a hassle to work with,which may be caused by improper installation in the first place)

The photo below shows the Hayward Stratum VRS. This device is unique because it releases vacuum in addition to shutting off pump,but it is more expensive than a mechanical air relief system.(most building owners I have talked to just want the least expensive way to compliance without pool down time)....for absolute safety and ease of operation,it is probably the best SVRS system overall.

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Hayward Stratum VRS


This pump shuts down when a blockage is sensed

This SVRS (safety vacuum release system) compliant pump is good in a situation where the pump or motor may be due to be replaced so you can kill two birds with one stone-additionally,this pump saves electrical costs and you may get a nice rebate from your utility company to boot! However,The Los Angeles County Health Dept. is only approving these for Public pools with at least 3" plumbing. More on these pumps in the "multi speed pumps section" in the link below:

information on multi speed pumps

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The device above is commonly known as the Emotron. It senses a change in amp draw when there is a blockage and turns off pump. It installs between pump timer and the pump itself. It has an electrical connection only - no vacuum hoses are required as in the Stingl and Hayward Stratum devices.


Compliant Drains/Covers




The link below shows a channel drain installation:

Channel drain installation



The top and side views above show a channel drain by the Aqua Star Company. This drain is compliant with the Virginia Graeme Baker Safety Act and can be used instead of two separate drains and comes with a prefabricated sump which greatly simplifies installation. It can be attached to one or more plumbing lines and has a flow rate of 316 GPM @ 3.9 FPS when installed on floor of pool. It qualifies as an "unblock-able" drain in Los Angeles/Ventura Counties.

But to install this main drain,the bottom of pool structure needs to be cut out more than four inches in depth,and rebar may have to be removed,possibly making the pool shell weaker.

UPDATE: I believe this drain in fine for a pool,especially when connected to a skimmer and the flow of water is through a filter and other equipment such as a heater or solar. However,on a spa where the drain is directly connected to a high flow jet pump,entrapment MAY still be possible as shown in the link below:

Man gets stuck on channel drain

Aquastar website:
Aquastar Channel Drain


Above and below is the Aquastar R8HP101 drain cover which does NOT require a sump but is only approved on vertical surfaces in Los Angeles County. I usually use these on spa jet pumps since they have a 224 GPM flow capacity.



Below are two main drain covers compliant with the Virginia Graeme Baker Safety Act:



The Paramount SDX pool drain cover kit above has an adapter (left in black) that can be attached to almost any drain. The cover on the right goes on the adapter with tamper resistant screws. In most cases,no additional sump work is needed to bring drain up to code - BUT if your pool has only one drain,a SVRS device must also be used in conjunction with the cover. This cover also comes with an adapter that qualifies the cover to be used on an equalizer port that has no sump. Below is another version by Waterway which has a more gradual rounded incline which is probably a little better for pool vacuums and automatic pool cleaners,and costs less. However it has a lower flow rate so may not work for high flow situations such as spa jets.

The drain cover below is the Aqua Star Model RWAV12101 which has a flow rate of 361 GPM. It comes in 9 x 9, 12 x 12(pictured), and larger sizes grouped together in lots of four. The colored date code on cover makes it easy to determine when its time to replace the cover (recommended every 5 years)


Updates for Ventura and Los Angeles Counties

The Los Angeles Health Department Recreational Waters Program has changed the requirements so many times my head is spinning....here are the latest updates:

UPDATE December 21,2008: Ventura County is offering a few different ways to compliance:

1)Split main drains at least 3 feet apart with approved covers and sumps

2)A single unblock-able main drain with approved cover/sump

3)A single main drain with approved cover/sump AND a device or system to prevent entrapment such as the devices above

UPDATE: as of 11/20/08 the Los Angeles Department of Health,Swimming Pool Division has said that public pool main drains must be split or unblock-able such as a channel drain. If the drain is split into two separate drains both must have approved covers as well as a compliant sump.

UPDATE 1/28/09: Los Angeles County is allowing Paramount drain covers on equalizer lines/and twin main drains WITHOUT additional sump work!

UPDATE 2/23/09: As of 2/09/09 Los Angeles County is allowing one of the pump shut off or vacuum release devices with a single main drain (AND approved main drain cover)for pools without equalizer lines and NO additional sump work.

Also-a proper skimmer is defined as having either: an equalizer line or; connected to a proper main drain which is two drains....or one unblock-able...or a main drain with proper cover AND a SVRS device on pump.

UPDATE 9/15/09: both Ventura and Los Angeles Counties are allowing drain covers to be put on underwater saving building owners on refilling pools and chemicals and down time as long as no sump work is needed and done by qualified technician (meaning proper license).....Also,some counties require ALL other pool items (such as handrails,tile lines,depth markers,etc.) to be brought up to code once pool is drained,which is another good reason to consider doing it underwater!

Below is a diagram showing a proper sump (if for some reason a compliant cover that does require a sump cannot be installed):

Equalizer Lines and Updates

I believe equalizer lines (the side port of public pool skimmers) installed above skimmer basket have such a low probability of entrapment that it is obsessive/compulsive to require a safety cover for them too...however,an equalizer port installed below the skimmer basket COULD possibly entrap someone if the basket was full of debris (at this time the Los Angles Health Dept. makes no distintion BOTH must be covered).

UPDATE 12/4/09: I explained to the Los Angeles Health Department that I was getting lots of different answers from inspectors regarding equalizer lines and wanted to know if an equalizer line on a skimmer attached to main drain could be capped off and sealed.The man on phone spoke to the head man in charge who told me equalizer lines CANNOT be capped off and MUST be covered with approved covers (the same cover as a main drain cover).

The same day I told a customer the news that her equalizer line had to be covered and she said she just talked to the inspector and was told it did NOT need to be covered and could be left as is.

BUT - on 1/6/10 I received a paper from the health dept stating "A skimmer connected to a main drain should not have an equalizer line...If main drain line is both functional and connected to skimmer indicate so,and that the redundant equalizer line will be capped and patched over."

3/29/10 - An inspector asked me to put a cover on one equalizer but cap off the other equalizer on the same pool that was also connected to main drain (photo shown below capped off with hydraulic concrete and below that Paramount SDX cover over equalizer hole with spacer to provide a smooth transition to cover since many equalizer ports are raised and have no plaster ring)



Free Estmates

I am bonded,insured,and have the proper licenses (C53/C61/D35) to bring pools into compliance with the Virginia Graeme Baker Safety Act and I can install new covers underwater saving pool owners thousands of dollars on refilling,chemicals,and down time not to mention other items that may need to be brought up to date if pool is drained in Los Angeles/Ventura Counties Jonathan's Pool Service 818-345-POOL(7665) or hit the "contact me" button to your left.

The price for bringing the average pool(one drain cover,one pump SVRS device) into compliance with the new law is usually around $1,700.00 including parts,labor,and the plans/permits which the health dept. requires. Some companies may drain the pool and do it for less,but then you have the water bill and chemical re-balance costs to think about.

A few apartment and condominium management companies have asked me if I can give a free estimate on multiple buildings with pools for a discount package deal. There are a few problems with this:

1)If we are talking 2-3 buildings within walking distance then the answer is yes. But 10 buildings miles apart would take me several days to estimate since each pool is unique. I would need a deposit before doing that much work.

2)My costs are fixed..the plans and permits,and materials such as SVRS devices are the same for each pool if I do one pool or ten pools. I have tried to get discount pricing on multiple SVRS devices,but so far the manufacturers only sell to wholesale distributors who agree to sell at a fixed price (which may in fact be illegal but I will continue to try)

UPDATE: I can now get 50.00 off if bought in lots of 6-10 depending on the dealer. Will I pass this on to you? YES if you mention you read this on my website.

3)The inspectors in different areas may have differing opinions on what they want done...even if they do not inspect job site,different inspectors may go over plans and paper work. For example,on a pool with a pump not on the approved list some inspectors may let it slide,others may require a pump change.

4)Some buildings may be out of my general area described at the top of page..I will still do estimate,but for a small fee,which will be applied towards the job if I get it.

Los Angeles County Health Dept. bulletin regarding pool drain compliance