East TN marina prepares for new law

(WBIR-Maryville) The unofficial start to summer comes just a month after legislators passed a bill aimed at improving safety for electrical equipment at marinas.

The Noah Dean and Nate Act is named after two Morristown boys. Ten-year-old Noah Dean Winstead and 11-year-old Nate Lynam were electrocuted while swimming together at a marina on Cherokee Lake on July 4, 2012.

The law does not go into effect until January 1, 2015, but some marinas are preparing for the new requirements.

"There was no real structure and that's one thing the law has done. It has created structure," said Rodney Phillips, harbor master at Tellico Marina in Maryville.

The bill requires clear warning signs of shock risks near docks, yearly inspections of equipment, and ground fault circuit protection that would automatically shut off power if the water is electrified.

At this time, Tellico Marina does not have ground fault protection. But under the new law, any electrical equipment installed or replaced at a marina on or after April 1, 2015 must include it.

"Until we expand our facility and have new construction really the only thing we're going to have to do, as far as the law is read, is replace our signage. We have signage right now but it's not exactly what it says in that text," he said.

Right now, their signs say "No Swimming." It will have to read "Electric Shock Hazard Risk: No Swimming Within 100 Yards of the Boat Dock."

"This is not a new issue for us. It's been going on for quite some time. Anybody in our industry really has to keep their finger on that thing and know that it's coming down the line," Phillips said.

Phillips said the marina works with an electrical contractor. That is on top of the yearly inspections to come.

"You don't want health and safety issues there, especially ones like electrical shock. Because it's not something that you can necessarily see or smell but you can certainly feel it and when you do it's usually too late," he said.

If a marina does not meet the requirements, there are several possible consequences including fees up to $50,000 and possible prison time.

The new law applies only to public docks, meaning private docks could still go years without inspections.


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