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GMA’s geosynthetic education offerings make a difference on campus and Capitol Hill

GMA News | October 1, 2018 | By:

August 2018 was a great month for the Geosynthetic Materials Association (GMA) and the industry at large. Banner legislation promoting innovative materials was introduced in Congress by friend of the industry Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. GMA members and industry educators met at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to educate students about the importance of utilizing geosynthetic products, and to live steam and record a daylong webinar. Education and advocacy are two key components of GMA’s mission.

“IMAGINE Act” introduced

On Aug. 2, Sen. Whitehouse, along with Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), introduced the IMAGINE Act in the U.S. Senate. The acronym IMAGINE stands for “Innovative Materials for America’s Growth and Infrastructure Newly Expanded,” and the bill asks Congress to appropriate millions of dollars for research of innovative materials and promotes “innovative materials in American growth and infrastructure.” Its principal purpose is “to encourage the research and use of innovative materials, in concert with traditional materials, and associated techniques in the construction and preservation of the domestic infrastructure network.”

The introduction of this bill is a big win for the geosynthetics industry and other innovative construction materials, as it defines for Congress “The term ‘innovative material,’ with respect to an infrastructure project, [as] high performance asphalt mixtures and concrete formulations, geosynthetic materials [emphasis by the author], advanced alloys and metals, reinforced polymer composites, including any coating or other corrosion prevention method used in conjunction with those material[s], advanced polymers, and any other material or aggregate materials, as determined by the appropriate agency or department head.”

GMA and its members worked closely with the offices of Sen. Whitehouse and others in the Senate to inform them about the benefits of geosynthetics. GMA recently met with Sen. Whitehouse during its biannual Lobby Day, and has made multiple trips to Tennessee to discuss our members’ products and inform lawmakers and the engineering community about the benefits of geosynthetics. Association meetings at the state and federal levels help pave the way for geosynthetics to be included in important legislation such as the IMAGINE Act.

Propex CEO Mike Gorey said of the act, “The IMAGINE Act will definitely help increase awareness and usage of innovative technologies like geotextiles that help build roads faster, extend the life of the road, reduce construction cost and use significantly less natural resources. I want to thank Sen. Whitehouse for his leadership in driving for real solutions that will sustain our nation’s infrastructure. Geosynthetic technology has the potential to save billions of dollars each year.”

Note: Executives from Thrace-LINQ, TenCate, Solmax/GSE and Tensar also provided supportive quotations to the office of Sen. Whitehouse.

Allen, Rowe, Toepfer, Zych and Stark headline webinar cosponsored by GMA, FGI and IGS-NA

On Aug. 3, GMA cohosted a webinar entitled “Emerging Topics in Geosynthetics,” streamed live from and recorded at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign using IFAI’s webinar platform and attended by engineering students and industry professionals. This was GMA’s first all-day webinar and its fourth webinar held in partnership with the Fabricated Geomembrane Institute (FGI).

Andy Durham, senior geosynthetics engineer at Owens Corning and GMA executive council member, said, “This was a one-of-a-kind event for all specifiers, installers and end users of geosynthetics. Having this collection of speakers broadcasting live from the UIUC campus is groundbreaking and will change the way that technology transfer is delivered in our industry from now on.”

The webinar was headlined by some of the biggest names in the geosynthetics industry and attended by nearly 150 geosynthetics professionals from around the world. R. Kerry Rowe, Queens University, discussed the service life of geomembranes and the effects of wrinkles on geomembrane performance; Glen Toepfer, CQA Solutions, spoke about testing procedures; Sam Allen, TRI/Environmental, educated attendees about the importance of “zero leak containment”; Gary Zych, American Electric Power, highlighted coal ash; and Tim Stark, University of Illinois, closed out the event by talking about elevated temperatures in containment applications.

GMA thanks this great slate of speakers for volunteering their time to educate the industry and students about the importance of geosynthetic materials.

Left to right: Gary Zych, Sam Allen, R. Kerry Rowe, Tim Stark, Glen Toepfer and Andy Durham at the Aug. 3 webinar
GMA to visit DC following midterm elections

GMA will host its next Lobby Day Nov. 13–14 in Washington, D.C. This event is free to all employees of GMA member companies and is a great opportunity to advocate on behalf of the industry, meet with your local congressional offices and network with your peers in the industry. Infrastructure topics including transportation, water resources, airports, railways, mining and much more will be discussed. If you are interested in attending please reach out to Jonathan Curry to learn more at, or visit to register.

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