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GMA is advancing the industry through advocacy and education

GMA News | October 1, 2019 | By:

By Jonathan Curry

Advocacy and education are key to the mission of the Geosynthetic Materials Association. GMA, through its state and local advocacy program, met with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in 2015 and, as a result, developed a strategic relationship that created the Waste Containment System Design seminars, which have provided education to more than 225 industry professionals. Advocacy efforts have also led to the education of state highway officials, regulatory agencies and politicians, resulting in greater acceptance of geosynthetic products in all facets of the country’s infrastructure. GMA, thanks to its members and volunteers, is advancing the industry through advocacy and education.

GMA’s WCSD III seminar

GMA hosted its third Waste Containment System Design (WCSD III) seminar in Syracuse, N.Y., on July 16–17, at the Crowne Plaza. Previous events were held in 2016 and 2018. This year’s seminar was attended by 64 waste containment professionals, including engineers, construction supervisors, landfill owners and operators, regulatory agency staff, and public works and municipal engineers. This event was made possible by the contributions of our sponsors: AGRU America Inc., Hilltop Environmental Solutions, Barton & Loguidice D.P.C., Cornerstone Environmental Group LLC, Raven Industries and ASTM D35 Committee on Geosynthetics. 

The objective of this seminar was to provide attendees with an enhanced working knowledge of the current state of practice and standard of care relating to the proper design, construction and construction quality assurance (CQA) of double-lined landfills that provide for environmentally sound disposal of solid waste. The principal instructor for this year’s course was Richard Thiel, president of Thiel Engineering; other instructors included Abigail Gilson-Beck of TRI/Environmental Inc. and Robert Phaneuf, the assistant director of New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Materials Management. 

Day one of the event focused on New York State regulations, with Phaneuf giving attendees a complete overview of “NYS Part 363 Regulatory Requirements for Landfill Liner and Final Cover Systems.” This overview provided all attendees with a high-level understanding of key state regulations and any recent changes to the regulations. Following Phaneuf’s presentation, Thiel addressed the following topics: materials of construction, and design, construction, and CQA considerations of earthen subgrades and compacted clay barrier components. In the afternoon, Thiel touched on geomembranes, geocomposites and natural drainage systems. 

Day two of the seminar consisted of presentations on topics pertaining to landfill slope stability, practical reliability analyses and a special presentation on electrical resistivity testing by Gilson-Beck. The day-and-a-half-long seminar provided attendees with a well-rounded overview of landfill design and how geosynthetic products are used to make landfills perform better and last longer. 

A special thanks goes out to L. David Suits of LDS Geosynthetic Consulting Services for working in partnership with GMA to coordinate this program. Suits, Phaneuf and Gilson-Beck have been a part of all three WCSD seminars hosted by GMA. They have worked closely with all our instructors to ensure that content was of high caliber and met the standards/qualifications for professional development hour (PDH) credits in the state of New York; attendees this year received 13 PDH for participating. Stay tuned for details about WCSD IV, which will be held in Syracuse, N.Y., in 2020.

Participants in the Waste Containment System Design (WCSD III) seminar in Syracuse, N.Y. Photograph by L. David Suits

Advocacy creates opportunities

GMA members have been hard at work traveling the country to promote geosynthetic materials over the years, and 2019 was no exception. GMA’s visit to Wyoming earlier this year yielded both an opportunity to work with the Wyoming chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies to review state specifications for geosynthetic materials and an opportunity to connect with the state’s transportation department about geosynthetic interlayers. GMA members made multiple trips to New Jersey between June and August to work with the Federal Aviation Administration on full-scale testing of geotextile and geogrid products, and GMA attended American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials meetings in Montana and Maryland in an effort to solidify our industry as a key material for state highway transit officials. These advocacy efforts give our member companies the opportunity to promote best practices and innovative solutions around the country. Advocacy leads to increased awareness and acceptance of geosynthetic materials and plays a key role in growing the industry. In the second half of the fiscal year, GMA members will visit states in the northeastern and southern parts of the country, as well as continue to lobby Congress and the White House for a strong infrastructure bill. 

Mark your calendars for GMA’s fall Lobby Day to be held Oct. 28–29, in Washington, D.C. This event is free to all GMA members and is an excellent opportunity to connect with your colleagues and promote the industry on Capitol Hill. For more details, contact GMA assistant, Jessica Kivijarvi, at

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