published Monday, June 6th, 2011

Washington and swimming pools

A few years ago, Congress decided that the nation’s public swimming pools needed drain covers to prevent people from becoming stuck in the pools’ powerful suction and drowning. The covers can cost thousands of dollars per pool.

That cost was a burden on many municipal pools, which operate on small budgets. That threatened to close some public pools altogether. Ironically, closing pools is likely to kill more Americans than the drain covers will save. Millions of Americans learn to swim at their local pools, which undoubtedly saves many lives. But only about one American dies each year in the drain suction tragedies that the drain covers are meant to head off.

Yet the irony of the situation recently deepened. While pools around the country have been saddled with the expense of the drain covers, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says about 1 million of the covers are faulty and must be recalled. So some public pools are having to delay opening for the summer while they await repairs to drain covers that they never should have been forced to install in the first place.

A lot of money — and maybe even some lives — could have been saved if Congress had not meddled in what clearly should be a local issue.

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