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Comments regarding the Aug./Sept. issue of Geosynthetics

News | October 1, 2013 | By:

To the editor,

I just finished reading the excellent Aug./Sept. 2013 edition and felt compelled to share these thoughts with you: 

“Market impacts … from coal ash regulation”: This was a very informative update from Boyd Ramsey and Andrew Aho. I’ve read and listened to some of Boyd’s prior commentaries on the Kingston Fossil Plant failure. I hope he continues to both track and update us on these issues. More importantly, I hope Washington starts listening!

[“From Our Readers”], Peggs and Koerner: I must agree with Ian Peggs on this issue. The idea that a 20% failure rate on seam test coupons is acceptable is from a bygone era. Manufacturers have all made amazing strides in the quality of resins, formulas, and manufacturing. In response, many engineers have tightened construction specifications and at least one manufacturer now markets a high-performance membrane that evolved from such tightening. It’s now time to stop accepting marginal quality seaming of near-perfect sheets. Let’s change that outdated 4-out-of-5 “standard.”

“GSI News”: Bob Koerner raised some excellent issues and provided a good summary of his fears about declining quality of technical publications. I must admit to having committed, at least once, most of his listed sins, generally with the best of intentions. The most recent being the “shopping around” of a paper. Last year, Chris Athanassopoulos and I co-authored a paper on closure caps for mine wastes. We first submitted it to Mine Closure 2012 (Brisbane, Qld, Australia). This is a relatively new series of annual conferences focusing on, as the name implies, mine closure. Our paper attempted to quantify the performance, costs, and risks of a range of closure capping systems, including single-layer soil, ET/water-balance, and multi-layered barrier systems. We concluded that geosynthetics can improve performance and might reduce lifecycle costs. Mine Closure 2012 rejected the paper because it was too favorable to geosynthetics (that’s my interpretation of their more detailed comments). The prior year, Mine Closure 2011 (Lake Louise, AB, Canada) published 120 papers. Only four mentioned geosynthetics and those in a dismissive manner. There is a deep bias in the mine closure community against geosynthetics and we took the rejection as a manifestation of this. We then submitted the same paper to the 2013 annual conference of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME) in Denver, Colo. The paper was accepted and the presentation won the Environment Division’s Outstanding Presentation Award. It is now a candidate for SME’s distinguished Henry Krumb Lecture Series. (As a side note, this was one of the best papers I’ve helped author—thanks mostly to Chris—and the only rejection I’ve ever received.)

Keep up the good work, Ron!

Mark Smith
RRD Intl. Corp. | Incline Village, Nev.

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Comments and letters can contain opinions of individuals who are writing and do not necessarily reflect the views of Geosynthetics magazine or the Industrial Fabrics Association International.

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