By Bob Dumas, Technical Editor

The final draft of a comprehensive standard for vacuum-release systems has been delayed past its projected time frame as the American Society for Testing and Materials? subcommittee members continue to debate its content.

ASTM, based in West Conshohocken, Pa., began drafting the standards last fall and Subcommittee Chairman Dave Stengl had estimated it would be finalized by February.

But some contention among subcommittee members has forced a more protracted process and it could be as late as April before any standard is approved.

The current draft was mailed to subcommittee members Feb. 1, said Cathy Morgan, ASTM director of technical committee operations. They will have the opportunity to review and either agree or disagree with it on a point-by-point basis.

Negative votes must be accompanied by an explanation, said Morgan, and can be overruled as ?non-persuasive? with a two-thirds majority vote by the subcommittee.

?Most of the issues are out on the table right now and we were hoping we wouldn?t have to have a face-to-face meeting again,? said committee member Joe Cohen.

However, that remains to be seen.

?We will have to see how the ballot returns come back,? Morgan said. ?It?s just been issued and we have very few back. I have no idea how the vote is going to go this time.?

It will be sometime in March before ASTM officials will know for sure if another meeting is necessary. Ballots are due back March 4 and it will take time to review them.

?Once we?ve achieved a two-thirds consensus, the standard passes,? Morgan said.

Two of the main points of contention involve whether the vacuum-breaking device standard should include language aimed at vent-pipe systems, and whether the devices should be designed to protect circulation pumps if they lose prime.

Cohen said he?s had second thoughts on the latter issue. ?At first, I was opposed,? he said. ?We were trying to save lives, not pumps. But then I thought, ?If we put these out and they burn out the pumps, people will start disconnecting them on their own and we won?t save any lives.??

Meanwhile, Florida pool builders already have begun to cope with a revised building code that took effect Jan. 1 and requires backup anti-entrapment systems, such as an ?approved? vacuum-breaking device or vented pipe on new pools.

Once the ASTM standards are approved, Florida builders will have more flexibility in which systems they can choose. In the meantime, the Building Commission has allowed the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) standard — IGC 160-2001a, ?Interim Guide Criteria for Safety Vacuum Release System (SVS) Devices for Swimming Pool Suction Fittings and Drains? — to be used.

Unfortunately, the IAPMO standard only allows for one particular brand of vacuum-breaking device to be considered, said Jon Bednerik, executive director of NSPI-Florida.

[This article is a reprint from Pool & Spa News, February 22, 2002.]