Waking up on a cold and snowy Saturday morning 9 days into April, knowing you are headed to Florida, most people would be excited at the thought and/or opportunity and jump right out of bed. Not me. I did not want to get up but did so reluctantly, knowing I likely would need extra time to get to the airport on time. Likewise, usually I am somewhat excited to see the snow, but when I let the dogs out, I quickly realized the few inches that seemed like a hit or miss forecast were vastly exceeded – seven inches of snow was on the deck! So, now I had to add shoveling snow into my already filled schedule so we could safely load the vehicle with luggage. To top it off, the roads from my house to half way from the airport were the worst I have seen in years! Driving 15-20 MPH below the speed limit was not in The Plan!
Perhaps there comes a time in everyone’s career where they mentally hit a wall – or perhaps it was just me. Several months earlier, when I lined up papers and a panel discussion for the show, I was truly excited. But now, I was dreading the show.
Having a 25 plus year career in earthwork and geosynthetics CQA – you never are the popular person on a jobsite, so perhaps the unending battle to promote and obtain quality had finally taken it’s mental toll. As I sat on my balcony, watching people a mere two hundred yards away play on the beach and swim in the ocean, I questioned whether the hard work and efforts were really worth it.
Mentally, I knew I was blessed to head up a panel discussion on geosynthetics specifications and even more blessed by the powerful industry team that joined the panel! Industry-recognized leaders representing the owner, design engineer, geosynthetics manufacturer, installer, electric leak location, and geosynthetics/soils testing laboratory sectors joined me! I was further blessed in having the opportunity to present a paper later in the week. A warm climate, the nearby ocean, and having a chance to further promote and discuss quality issues in the geosynthetics industry – what more could I ask for!
Motivation. I just did not have it in me like I normally do. Mentally, I planned on hitting the floor running when we arrived, finishing up all my outstanding work. I needed to finish up the PowerPoint for Monday’s panel discussion and Tuesday’s paper presentation. Come Sunday afternoon, neither was complete. I tried to work on the presentations while our team assembled our booth, but it was unusually slow going. The cruise ships passing by, one after another – the first headed roughly east-northeast and the next headed roughly southwest from my point of view, the trend continuing every 15-20 minutes until seven had passed by – were definitely more distracting than is the norm for me when I have a task to complete. I had to drag myself to the Sunday evening meet and greet in the exhibit hall.
At the meet and greet, a new tide started to slowly sweep me back towards my happy place – a tide that continued throughout the rest of the show. People I knew and people I never met before came up to me and talked about the impact my work has had in their lives – from the book I released last year, the blog started several years ago, and people who had heard me speak at various conferences over the past three years presented papers because I had previously spoken on that topic. We finalized the panel discussion early Monday morning and the panel knocked it out of the park later that afternoon – great discussions, debate, and audience participation! Every panel member has dealt with and continues to deal with bad specifications and there were some great recommendations to help reduce this industry wide moving forward. I felt Tuesday’s paper presentation was below my normal standards but I still received many compliments and positive feedback. By the time Wednesday’s technical sessions were over, I knew I was back! My mind was filled with new knowledge garnered from industry colleagues over the course of two and a half days. Quality Assurance is my passion – it just took some new waves to reaffirm it to me!
There are several presentations I attended that I think should eventually change the way geomembrane installations are regulated, designed, specified, or constructed. Below I will provide a brief list of content and authors – I encourage you to locate any associated papers and check out the content for yourself. Unfortunately, I was only able to attend a handful of presentations – there were many more that I would have liked to attend.
- Papers dealing with the increased leakage rates due to wrinkles in geomembranes and how a network of wrinkles can result in substantial migration of liquids. Check out papers by Dr. J.P. Giroud and Abigail Gilson-Beck.
- A presentation by Dr. Bob Koerner that provides new information on the importance of keeping stones away from geomembranes – either above or below the liner.
- Papers dealing with electric leak location and the success of these technologies. It is amazing to me that in the United States, only 2-4% of containment applications use this technology to minimize the potential for leaks! Check out papers by Abigail Gilson-Beck, Carl Charpentier, and Heather Bremner.
Some additional noteworthy moments of the show:
- Sam Allen (TRI) provided a stern reminder that suntan lotion and/or sweat does not mix with field seams and is one of the main culprits behind seam failures!
- Demtech has developed a fusion wedge for Agru ClosureTurf that provides a quality seam.
- In regards to continued constructability issues faced by installers, John Heap (Colorado Lining) suggested a peer review of containment system designs by installers. While this is currently performed on a limited basis industry wide, my personal belief is that increased installer involvement in containment design would lead to increased quality and help share knowledge between installers and engineers as products and technologies continue to change.
To me, this conference served as a great reminder of how important it is for members of the geosynthetics industry to unite at venues such as this to support, share, encourage and learn from one another. In order for us as to continue to grow as an industry, we need these opportunities to learn from each other’s perspectives so we can continue to improve.
I would like to thank all my colleagues who were present at GeoAmericas 2016 – you definitely were instrumental in resurfacing the excitement and passion I have for this industry! I am truly excited about what lies ahead!