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Bloomington Herald-Times Articles

March 16, 2009

Spring break offers a new point of view for students traveling abroad
Visitors from U.S. might be in for some surprises
By Nicole Brooks
March 16, 2009

Spring break is traditionally a time for college students to chill out, but more than 100 Indiana University students are today struggling with jet lag and prepping for a week of learning.

And it is the best kind of learning, said Michael Robinson, IU professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures. He traveled over the weekend to South Korea with 14 Liberal Arts and Management Program students.

"They're going to be blown away. Because frankly, Indiana is the third world," Robinson said before leaving the states.

At least, compared to South Korea, a place Robinson has visited regularly since the 1960s. Seoul, South Korea's capital and largest city, is 85 percent networked with broadband wiring, he said.

"Everybody's wireless." Students will see commuters 30 feet underground waiting for their subway train watching sitcoms on a handheld device, he said.

Robinson has seen students' belief that America is the center of the world shaken after they've spent time in Korea. "They come back chastened."

Their eight-day stay in South Korea includes visits to Seoul's Korean Folk Museum, temples and palaces and traditional restaurants. The group will also tour a cosmetics company and Handok/Sanofi-Aventis pharmaceuticals. "I'm dying to know how they're doing in the recession," Robinson said of the latter. The company sells high end products made with native herbs, he said. Handok's CEO, Young Jin Kim, is an IU graduate.

The students are working on a project that will benefit from their spring break trip, Robinson said. Some students are interested in public spaces and public monuments, others in politics and history -- the group will tour the Korean War Museum, and travel north to the DMZ, or the Korean Demilitarized Zone. The strip of land acts as a buffer zone between South and North Korea.

Robinson said he is not concerned about the travelers' security. The "chilling of the relationship" between North and South Korea is an internal struggle that doesn't equal safety concerns for visitors, he said.

"This is posturing. It's been going back and forth for 40 years now."

A group of IU journalism students will also be in Seoul for spring break. Professor Lesa Hatley Major's "Technology, Change and the News" class will study Korea's merging of media and technology with visits to the offices of KBS, the Korean Broadcasting System, and Chosun Ilbo, a newspaper with a daily circulation of 2.2 million.

A group of international public relations students is in Tokyo this week. Another is in western Europe, following the path of famed reporter and IU alumnus Ernie Pyle, who covered World War II from Europe.

Undergraduate students from the Kelley School of Business are spending their spring break in China, Ghana and Croatia, studying emerging economies.

Law aims to prevent horrific pool accidents
Not all area spots in compliance with new drain cover requirement
By Dann Denny
March 14, 2009

A federal law went into effect Dec. 19, 2008, that requires all public pools, spas and whirlpools to have anti-entrapment covers over their main drains.

But local health officials say most pools and spas in the area are not yet in compliance.

Simeon Baker, environmental health specialist with the Monroe County Health Department, said of the 116 pools, spas and baby pools his department regularly inspects, fewer than 1 percent are in compliance with the new law.

The law, called the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, is named after former Secretary of State James Baker's granddaughter, who died in 2002 when the suction from a spa drain trapped her underwater.

In the area, a few hotel pools have installed the required equipment, and the Monroe County YMCA will do so in its two pools and two hot tubs March 18-22 -- at a cost of $16,000.

"We couldn't get the parts by Dec. 19 because the drain cover manufacturers couldn't keep up with the demand," said Sara Herold, the YMCA's director of marketing and membership. "We had to prove we were taking steps to get the proper drain covers."

The law is designed to prevent injury or death caused when people, usually young children, become entrapped by the suction from pool or spa drains. Victims can be disemboweled by the powerful suction; or drown if their buttocks, hair, jewelry or limbs become trapped by the drain's suction.

Between 1999 and 2007 in the U.S., there were 9 deaths and 53 injuries suffered in public and residential pools and spas by drain suction entrapment, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Most of the victims were between 5 and 9 years old.

Rob Gilchrist, aquatics coordinator with the Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department, said he thinks the law is a good one that will save lives, but has been frustrated by the short amount of time given to comply.

"The law passed just a year ago and is placing a huge strain on the industry," he said. "There are not a lot of companies making these drain covers but there are a lot of people wanting them."

Gilchrist said it's particularly difficult getting super large drain covers, like the ones needed to fit over the main drains at the Parks and Rec Department's two pools -- Bryan Park and Mills.

"The large, custom-made drain covers are either not in production, or in very limited production," he said. "At this time no manufacturer makes the size of drain cover we need, so we had to make a special order."

Gilchrist said he is hopeful the covers will arrive in time for the scheduled May 23 opening of the Bryan Park and Mills pools. "Right now we're just waiting for the drain covers to come in, and once they do we will put them in right away," he said.

If the drain covers do not arrive in time, Gilchrist said he was not sure whether or not the pools would open as scheduled.

Deadline exceptions

The Dec. 19, 2008, deadline does not apply to all pools and spas. Those that were closed on that date are not required to comply with the new law until they re-open to the public. And if pool owners can prove they are making sincere efforts to acquire the covers, they are granted an indefinite grace period.

Bill Ramos, director of Indiana University's Aquatic Institute, said none of IU's pools -- the outdoor pool, the indoor pool at the SRSC, or the two pools in the HPER building -- are currently in compliance.

IU's outdoor pool is scheduled to open April 27 for IU's swim teams, swim clubs and public lap swimming; and May 29 for the regular public swim season.

"We don't have to close the indoor pools because we can show we're making reasonable steps toward compliance, and we're also taking safeguards -- such as not allowing people to sit on the drains," Ramos said. "But because the outdoor pool is seasonal, we won't open it until we're compliant."

Ramos said the University would soon hire a company to do a complete assessment of IU's pool and hot tub drains. Once that's completed, he will order the necessary equipment needed to make the pools and hot tubs compliant.

"I've heard there is a massive backlog and a waiting list because so many people are ordering the drain covers," he said. "I hope we don't encounter that, but we're at the mercy of the vendors."

Ramos said the assessment will cost around $10,000. Gilchrist said a similar assessment cost the Parks and Rec Department $2,400, and that the six drain covers he needs will cost a total of $3,000 to $6,000.

What the law says

The law requires all public pools and spas to have drain covers that meet the standards established by the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals and the American National Standards Institute.

"These covers fit over the top of main drains, reducing the flow rate into the drain box," Gilchrist said. "They're also designed to reduce the likelihood of hair or limb entrapment."

If a pool has a single main drain, the law requires that it also has a second anti-entrapment device or system that does such things as reverse the flow of water if someone becomes entrapped, automatically shuts off the pump if the drain becomes blocked, or uses gravity rather than a suction pump to drain the pool.

Pools with multiple drains more than 3 feet apart may not need a second anti-entrapment device or system.

Gilchrist said the Parks and Rec pools are already in compliance with one of the two mandated layers of protection because they have gravity drainage systems.

"The water falls into a big drain box into 12-inch PVC pipes and pressure moves it into a large holding tank, where it's removed by pumps," he said. "It's done with gravity rather than suction."

Ramos said IU's outdoor pool also uses the gravity system, but needs the drain covers to further protect against someone becoming entrapped by entangling their hair, watch or piece of jewelry on the drain grate.

The new law allows another option -- sealing off the main drain with concrete. The pool could then be drained with a portable pump, or perhaps a wall-mounted drain.

"The wall drain has to be half in the water and half out of the water. The covers are shaped in a way that prevents suction," said Karen McGlynn, deputy administrator and health educator with the Monroe County Health Department. "That way no one could be sucked into it."


McGlynn said the new federal law cannot be enforced by local or state health officials -- only by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission or state attorneys general offices. "The federal government has put together a 17-member task force to help with enforcement," she said. "But it's going to be pretty hard for 17 people to enforce this."

Baker said when he does his county health department pool and spa inspections, he tells owners if they are in violation of the new federal law.

"But I won't report them to the federal government," he said. "That doesn't mean that someone else couldn't report them."

So far, McGlynn said, federal officials have been vague about what the penalty is for failing to comply with the new law. "I recently went to a training session on this in Indianapolis," she said. "They wouldn't give us a straight answer."

Report violations sooner
To the editor:

I'm normally a pretty placid person, but when I read in this morning's H-T (Feb. 26) that IU reported an impermissible call infraction to the NCAA for calling one of its recruits one too many times last fall, a jolt of anger flashed through my body. It didn't' help matters that this information was published first by the Indianapolis Star after they dug it out of public records. Ouch!

And as another reminder of the past, one of the assistant coaches was blamed for the violation. Ouch again!

It would have felt better (but only by a teensy weensy amount) if I could have read this first in the H-T from an IU press release published last fall.

As it stands now, it looks awful.

I'm sure the infraction looks worse than it probably is. But it looks terrible nonetheless.

IU seems to have lost its knack for handing perception. I hope it gets better soon.

I don't want to read about IU in the Indianapolis Star, for it won't be good if we rely on them. And I hope IU coaches do a better job of counting, for we can't take many more of these hits.

John L. Werner


And another thing . . .
March 13, 2009

IU and county team up for excellence

The fruits of the town-gown connection were plucked by the county recently in the form of a state award for a GIS project on which IU and county officials cooperated.

The three-year study using the county's GIS system to analyze water quality and the urban landscape netted the Monroe County Planning Department an award from the Indiana Geographic Information Council.

With water samples and GIS maps, county planners and graduate students from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs analyzed that data to create future scenarios about how impervious surfaces could affect water quality here.

The prize is the 2009 Excellence in GIS Award for Counties. Congrats to all who worked on this.