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Town changes “Green” Pool Codes

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January 1, 2009 was supposed to be the date that all heated swimming pools in the Town of Southampton were required by law to use solar power as the major source of heat in an effort to reduce residents’ energy consumption.
Last Friday, that original legislation was changed, however. Now, all residents with heated swimming pools are not mandated to have solar power as the main energy component. Instead they will have to make other changes to conform to the new regulations, which include use of items such as energy efficient pipes, pumps and covers.
After numerous work sessions with members of the Pool and Spa Association and members of Southampton Town’s green committee, the town board unanimously adopted the new legislation at a regular board meeting on Friday giving pool industry professionals alternative options for reducing energy, effective January 1, 2009.
The new legislation, sponsored by councilwoman, Nancy Graboski, states that the intent of the law is to provide a more comprehensive program “obtaining efficiencies beyond the mere measure of pool heating” which, it said, “will have a far greater impact on energy than a solar heating mandate.”
The new requirements for pools constructed or reconstructed after January 1, include use of piping at least two inches in diameter and sweeping elbows instead of right-angle pipes. Also, pumps installed after the effective date must be determined by the size of the pool — the bigger the pool, the more stringent the requirement.
In terms of the heating component, the new legislation states that pool heaters must meet minimum energy efficiency requirements as set by the United States Department of Energy. Also, continuously burning pilot lights are prohibited and all heated outdoor pools built or reconstructed after January 1 must have covers that cover the surface of the pool when it is not in use.
According to Sheryl Heather of the Sustainable Southampton Advisory Committee — the town’s green committee — 322 pool permits were issued for the year as of November 7, 2008.
In July, the town board voted in favor of what some called the “strictest energy codes in the country,” in an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of town residents. Those regulations included a tiered proposal for new and substantially renovated energy star rated homes as well as the solar mandate for heated pools.
The Southampton Town Board back-peddled on the original legislation, however, and decided in the fall to implement less stringent energy requirements for homes. The legislation regarding swimming pools has also been reduced in stringency from its original content.
Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, who was the sponsor for the original legislation on energy standards of both homes and pools, is not certain this was the right move.
“Anything that helps reduce our carbon footprint is a positive,” Throne-Holst said on Friday. But, she added, she still feels the original legislation was good.
“The pool industry people simply were not ready to make that change and to start re-tooling for solar powering,” Throne-Holst said. “It’s a leap that I guess we just weren’t ready to make yet.”
The councilwoman also said that she believes the board may look back at this move and think twice about the decision.
“I think we will see what is happening on a federal level and see that we were a small step ahead,” she added.
John Tortorella, owner of J. Tortorella Custom Gunite Pools, sat on a committee which he said helped to come up with the new legislation.
“The town left it up to us,” Tortorella said on Tuesday. The committee, he said, was made up of a few people from eastern Long Island in conjunction with the Pool and Spa Association.
“For us, there is no change at all,” he said and added that his business has already incorporated these regulations into their pool design, as did other large pool companies. But the new legislation may affect smaller pool companies.
The cost to a homeowner considering building or renovating a pool, according to Tortorella, could be between $1,500 and $2,200 for these additional requirements.
Councilman Chris Nuzzi, a co-sponsor of the new legislation, believes it is a good compromise for the residents and pool industry professionals.
“We did now what should have happened in the first place,” Nuzzi said on Monday, “and that was to involve the professionals in the industry and come forward with energy efficient ways to construct it [the legislation].”
“Instead of mandating for solar, I still believe we should provide incentives,” said Nuzzi who currently has a form of incentive legislation on the table for the New Year, which would offer rebates to consumers who use alternative energy sources.
“Let’s partner with the community and not over regulate and that is how we will be successful,” he said.
“I think we are going to have to be cognizant with the green legislations,” he continued, “We still have to see what works and what doesn’t.”