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City is upgrading pools to meet standards

There's nothing better to do on a warm, sunny day than go swimming. And in Farmington, swimming just got a little bit safer.

Just last week, the city of Farmington opened its outdoor pool for the summer season. Before the pool opened, though, it was brought up to code to comply with the newly-enacted Abigail Taylor Pool Safety law, passed by the Minnesota Legislature during the past session.

Abigail was the little girl who lost part of her intestinal tract, and eventually her life, after sitting on a pool drain at a private club. The drain's powerful suction disemboweled the girl. The incident has led to a greater awareness for pool safety.

That same awareness led to legislators setting three new requirements for public and private swimming pools.

The first requires a dual drain system in shallow pools. Farmington's outdoor wading pool did not have such a system, parks and recreation director Randy Distad said, until just a few weeks ago when it was added so the wading pool would conform to state law. The dual drain cost about $4,000 to install. With the dual drain system comes the reassurance that if one drain gets blocked or covered, the other drain will continue to function.

"The dual drain system is not required until Jan. 1 of 2009, so we have been proactive in getting it done this year," Distad said. "We did that because our whole focus is making sure kids have a safe environment to swim out there."

The law also requires all pool drain covers to have the approvals of two testing agencies -- the American National Standards Institute and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Though Farmington's pool has not yet received a ruling from the ASME/ANSI, Distad expects the city will be in compliance with this requirement by the July 1 deadline.

All public pool owners must certify that they have certain drain covers that do not allow entrapment to occur. These drain covers spread out the suction in the pool so a swimmer cannot become entrapped on the drain, Distad said.

Finally, the city is required to do a physical inspection of the drain covers daily to make sure the drains are properly covered, and keep a log of those inspections.

The upgrades have meant a little extra work and a few extra dollars, but Distad says the time and money is well spent.

"The last thing we want is for our community to feel unsafe in our pools. We want them to come in, have fun and not worry about those things," he said.

Farmington's outdoor pool opened June 11.