MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Following a CBS4 investigation into pool safety, Miami-Dade County may now pass a law to help prevent electrocution in pools.
The CBS4 investigation into pools stemmed from incidents where children were shocked or electrocuted.
CBS4 Investigator David Sutta initially wanted to find out what was going wrong. What he discovered was alarming.
The difference between life and death in pools had to do with a simple, relatively cheap, safety device. In Florida, it’s mandatory in public pools. In private pools though, it’s optional.
It all started with 7-year-old Calder Sloan electrocuted while swimming in his pool. Days later three children were shocked while swimming in their community pool. Surveillance video from the Palms West showed a grandfather being zapped as he dragged his grandchild out.
In an investigation CBS4 revealed the Palms West pool had ground wires leading to nowhere. When a pool pump failed the electricity that should have followed down the wire into the ground went to the pool instead. In Sloan’s case ground wires were missing as well and a faulty light is suspect.
The question that disturbed Calder’s father, Chris, was why did his son die while the children in the community pool lived. The answer? Voltage. In Sloan’s pool multiple systems failed and high voltage entered the pool killing him.
In public pools low voltage, a maximum of 15 volts, is required. In private pools, it’s optional. You can have upwards of 120 volts. “15 volts will shock you. 120 volts will kill you.” Pool builder Irv Chazen explained. He was disgusted with his industry’s response after the incidents. They wanted to stand by current building codes. “I’m thinking just the opposite. It’s prudent not to wait. Why wait for another possible incident of electrocution?” Chazen told CBS4.
It baffled Miami-Dade building official Michael Goolsby as well. When asked if there was any argument as to why you would want 120 volts in your pool he replied. “None that I know of.” Goolsby has been trying for more than a decade to ban 120 volt systems in pools. He may finally get it. Miami-Dade Commissioner Audrey Edmonson caught one of CBS4’s reports on the high voltage issue. “Once I saw your report that was not isolated. That’s happening all over the place. And if it’s happening to more than one, then it’s time that we as lawmakers do something about it,” Edmonson told CBS4.
Edmonson has now drafted a new ordinance that would side step, in a way, the Florida Building Codes.
The new ordinance would ban the use of high voltage lights in all new pools. It would also require any homeowner updating a pool light to change the system to low voltage. In essence the double standard between public and private pools would be eliminated in Miami-Dade County. Edmonson believes it will make a difference. “If you save one life. I think it’s worth it,” she said.
The ordinance will be voted on the first time next Tuesday at County Commission. It’s expected to pass and if goes well this could be a law by the end of the year. Miami-Dade County would be the only county in the state mandating low voltage in pools. The rare move is only the third time Miami-Dade has ever made a building amendment to the Florida Building Code. The commissioner is hoping other counties will follow suit while she lobbies the state to adapt a similar policy.
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