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GMA history and happenings

April 1st, 2020 / By: / GMA News

By Andrew Aho

Throughout the history of geosynthetics, leaders have emerged who have significantly affected the growth of the industry in North America. During the Geosynthetics CASE STUDIES Conference in March in North Charleston, S.C., a few of the Geosynthetic Materials Association (GMA) leaders had an opportunity to address the gathering and recall their personal experiences and achievements when they chaired the GMA executive council.

The following is some of the back story of the early development of GMA and the industry leaders who, guided by the growth of GMA, had a positive impact on the industry. 

Geotextiles had been in use for about a decade when, in 1980, the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) formed the Geotextile Division, representing the manufacturers of geotextiles. With the growth of the industry, IFAI began publishing GFR magazine (now Geosynthetics magazine) with the first issue in the summer of 1983.

Demand for geomembranes has increased due to government regulations and the end of open dumping of waste in the United States in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The geomembrane industry needed a place for trade association activities, and, in 1983, IFAI formed the Geomembrane Division. Activities of both the Geotextile and Geomembrane Divisions mostly involved the development of specifications and technical issues related to the materials. The Geotextile Division worked with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and academic, state and federal government representatives to develop and revise the AASHTO M288 geotextile specifications. The Geomembrane Division focused on the new Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations and specifications for liners used in waste containment. 

In 1997, the members of the two divisions voted to change the direction of the association to one of marketing geosynthetics and move away from the specification and technical issues. That year IFAI merged the Geotextile Division and the Geomembrane Division to form GMA. Joe Luna of Colbond was the initial chair of the GMA executive committee. Other members who guided GMA were Gary Willibey of Amoco Fabrics and Fibers Co., Marc Theisen with Synthetic Industries, Dave Clarke with TC Mirafi, Giovanni Capra of Tenax Corp. and Monte Thomas of TNS Advanced Technologies. 

By 1998, GMA had 37 member companies including producers of geogrids and geocells. That year GMA developed its first website, www.gmanow.com. Maccaferri North America joined the GMA executive council later in 1998, and Massimo Ciarla proposed the development of GMA Mexico. Oscar Couttolenc was contracted to represent GMA Mexico from his office in Mexico City.

Even though the association looked to move away from specifications and technical issues, it remained embroiled in the development of specifications for geotextiles and geogrids. The AASHTO subcommittee on Materials Technical Section E4 Task Force on Geogrid/Geotextile Specifications requested that GMA help develop a further specification for geotextiles and a separate specification for geogrids. The issue was controversial due to the proprietary nature of the brands and materials. The result was the development of a white paper rather than a specification. In July 1998, GMA presented AASHTO with the white paper “Geosynthetics in Pavement Systems Applications.” A further attempt to move away from technical issues was unsuccessful when the same AASHTO committee requested the industry make another attempt to develop a specification for geogrids. Again, the result was a report known as GMA White Paper 11: “Geosynthetic Reinforcement of Aggregate Base/Subbase Course
of Pavement Structures,” published in
June 2000.

In 2000, GFR magazine became the official publication of GMA and remains so today under the new name Geosynthetics.

Giovanni Capra was elected chair in 2001 and served two two-year terms ending in 2005. Under Capra’s guidance, GMA continued to build on the membership growth enjoyed under Luna. The membership was now at 45 and included the majority of manufacturers and large distributors of geosynthetics. The executive council grew to eight members by adding GSE, represented by Ernie English, and LINQ Industrial Fabric, represented by Sean Kiniry. GMA continued to focus on market promotion and education. GMA contracted with TRI to develop a Geosynthetics Handbook. 

There remained a need for a technical presence within GMA. In 2003, discussions with Dr. Robert Koerner began regarding becoming the “technical arm” of GMA, and the GMA Techline was launched, monitored by Koerner.

By 2004, GMA had gained significant membership and an aggressive agenda. Chair Capra began an initiative to develop a long-term strategic plan for GMA. The plan identified the need to compete with traditional construction materials at a policy level within the U.S. government. It also recognized the need for more education regarding the proper use of geosynthetics. During that year, Ernie English of GSE replaced Capra as chair. After a short time as chair, English resigned due to work commitments, and John Henderson from TenCate Geosynthetics was elected chairman. Henderson’s tenure began a major shift in the activities of GMA away from specifications and promotions to an aggressive government-relations program. The new era of lobbying and government relations will be reviewed in subsequent issues of this column.


GMA happenings

By Fred C. Chuck

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency coal combustion residuals proposed revisions 

A proposal addresses the deadline to cease receipt of waste for unlined surface impoundments managing coal ash. It includes the following:

A court-mandated change in the classification of compacted-soil-lined or “clay-lined” surface impoundments from “lined” to “unlined,” which means that formerly defined clay-lined surface impoundments would no longer be considered lined units and will need to be retrofitted or closed. In addition, pursuant to the court’s decision, the revisions will specify that all unlined units are required to retrofit or close, not just those that have detected groundwater contamination above regulatory levels.

Save the date: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation waste containment seminar 

This is the fourth installment of a successful series of technical seminars regarding landfill design seminars that has been developed 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. The seminar will be held Sept. 15–16, at the Crowne Plaza in Syracuse, N.Y.