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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

New rules for pools start July 1

Elida S. Perez Staff writer

New state regulations designed to keep kids from drowning in home pools and spas will take effect next month, but city of Spokane residents won’t see much difference.

The change to the state building code means that new pools installed beginning in July will need a fence that’s at least 4 feet tall and meets other minimum standards. Above-ground pools must have either removable steps or locking gates around irremovable ladders, among other requirements. Gates would be optional for pools with power safety covers that meet standards.

“We’re already doing what they’re changing theirs to,” said Larry Naccarato, city of Spokane commercial plan reviewer for building services.

Naccarato said building codes are updated every three years, but they rarely have to make changes to their current codes.

Spokane Valley officials said they’ve already adopted the new state rules.

“It’s required for state law by July 1, but we could be a couple of days ahead,” said Mary Kate Martin, Spokane Valley building official.

Spokane Valley used county development plans as a guide until they completed their city building code section.

The new codes will not be retroactive. Doing so “would be a nightmare,” because existing pool owners would have to retrofit gates and inspectors would have to revisit thousands of pools, said Dan Skindzier, city of Spokane inspector supervisor.

Martin said, “We’re not going to go house to house.”

Residential pools are generally not inspected after initial construction unless someone files a complaint that a pool doesn’t meet existing codes.

Contractors have to get building permits for new pools and safety barriers. Building and electrical inspectors evaluate the site to determine if it meets state and city safety codes.

According to the Washington State Department of Health Web site, most unintentional drownings occur in summer. Data shows most deaths were preventable, and drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for Washington children.

Although drowning death rates have generally decreased from 1990 to 2004, there was a small rise in infant deaths from 2002 to 2004.

In Spokane County, there was only one unintentional drowning death in a pool from 2003 to 2005.