Swimming pool standards examined County Council to vote on tougher safeguards

November 23, 1997|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

The Anne Arundel County Council is considering tougher safety requirements for public swimming pools to prevent injuries such as those suffered by a toddler whose intestines were sucked out when he sat on the filterless drain of a wading pool in Glen Burnie.

William Boulay, now 5, nearly died in the accident at a Holiday Inn on Ritchie Highway on Aug. 16, 1995. Last November, his family won a $20 million settlement of its lawsuit against the motel operator and pool maintenance company. The settlement was one of the largest of its kind in state history.

The Boulays are using the money to cover the more than $20,000-a-month cost of medical care for William, who cannot eat solid food. A machine pumps nutrients into his body through a hose attached to his chest, according to family members. Someone must change the boy's colostomy bag every 15 minutes or so.

The council is to vote Dec. 1 on a proposal that would require owners of new public pools to install dome-shaped filters over drains and have more than one exit for water.

Multiple drains are believed to be safer because the suction pressure is lower when someone's body blocks one of the drains, said Robert Webber, director of community health for the county.

Gary Boulay, William's father, said he strongly supports the TC additional safety requirements, which also would apply to some private pools used by large numbers of people.

"If that had been a double-drain pool, my son would not have been injured," said Boulay, a 37-year-old carpenter from Glen Burnie.

Although William Boulay's injury was the first of its kind on record in Anne Arundel County, a growing number of state and local governments have been tightening pool safety requirements over the past decade because of a handful of similar cases, said David Roberts, who oversees pool safety for the state.

The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in February toughened its regulations for pools used by more than four people, also requiring multiple drains. This change served as the model for Anne Arundel County's proposed law.

"There is an ongoing national effort to develop better guidelines and standards for pools to prevent these kinds of entrapments from happening in the future," Roberts said.

Nineteen people across the country have been trapped on pool or hot tub drains since 1980. Six of the cases have been fatal, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The North Carolina General Assembly in 1993 banned single-drain wading pools after a 5-year-old girl had 75 percent of her intestines sucked out.

The New Jersey Health Department issued a safety advisory calling for daily inspections of drain covers in 1996 after a 16-year-old girl drowned when she was pinned to a broken drain during a post-prom party in Lakewood.

Pub Date: 11/23/97

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