It was a busy and eventful year for the North American Society for Trenchless Technology (NASTT) with several significant accomplishments achieved and a strengthening of their internal processes that will guide the society in the coming years.
It also was a year of continued growth in corporate membership, said George Ragula, who begins serving the second year of his two-year term as the NASTT chairperson.
“We’re excited about NASTT’s steady membership growth, especially in the corporate arena,” said Ragula. “For Government membership growth, we’ve initiated a major effort to attract owners to join NASTT by partnering with the American Public Works Association.”
Ragula said the society moved forward in several areas during 2011:
• NASTT developed financial operating policies to allow for smoother day-to-day operations with well-defined requirements and procedures;
• Increased membership with a high percentage of municipal members seeking technical knowledge and networking opportunities;
• Updated the NASTT web site with a new look, new information and the ability to access data faster and more efficiently;
• Published a new magazine, NASTT’s Trenchless Today, which is released three times a year;
• Expanded the CIPP and Sewer Lateral training programs (to be complete in 2012)
• Updated and developed the Good Practices Manuals. The CIPP Good Practices manual (1st Edition) will be released in early 2012;
• Initiated a NASTT Instructor Certification process to educate and train instructors in how to effectively hold a NASTT course (to be implemented in 2012);
• Reinforced the Carbon Calculator program by collaborating with NYSEARCH/Northeast Gas Association to heighten awareness of trenchless technology as a “green” alternative. Phase 1 of the project is expected to be complete in April 2012; and
• Updated a specific section about trenchless technology in a utility right-of-way publication for the American Public Works Association (APWA).
Ragula points out that being a member of NASTT bring its own rewards in the form of education, networking and even economic benefits.
“Becoming a member of NASTT is all about how active you want to be,” stressed Ragula. “I’ve said this before, but it really is true; what you get out of being a member of NASTT is more about what you put in to it. My involvement with the society has garnered me the recognition in the gas industry as being a go-to person when it comes to trenchless. I’m involved with a lot of research and development in the gas industry and much of what has been accomplished in the gas industry has been spurred by the sewer and water trenchless side of this business. The knowledge I’ve learned through my association with NASTT has helped my company save more than $25 million. It only stands to reason that the owners benefit the most. They generate the work for consulting firms, who work for contractors, who do the bidding for projects.”
And one place that provides owners, contractors and engineering firms a venue for learning about the trenchless industry is the No-Dig Show, presented by NASTT. According to Ragula, NASTT’s 2011 No-Dig Show, which was held in March in Washington, D.C., was a qualified success. “NASTT set records at No-Dig 2011 with 140 papers, 138 exhibitors and more than 1,800 attendees. In addition, NASTT added 141 new members to its roster.”
Ragula credits the 2011 Program Chair Jack Burnam of CH2M Hill and his team of volunteers as instrumental in making the conference a success.
Looking ahead at what is in store for attendees at NASTT’s 2012 No-Dig Show to be held in Nashville, TN, March 11-15, Ragula says “they can expect a fresh look and feel to the conference.”
During the No-Dig Show Gala Awards Dinner, NASTT members will recognize their first inductees into a new NASTT Hall of Fame, for their accomplishments and contributions to the trenchless industry. Honorees include the late Gary Vermeer, founder of Vermeer Corp.; Frank Canon, Baroid Industrial Drilling Products; and Bernie Krzys, president and publisher of Trenchless Technology magazine.
Another addition to this year’s agenda is to the educational program which has been expanded from five tracks to six for a total of 155 papers that are peer reviewed by the all-volunteer Program Committee.
Looking ahead to 2012, Ragula said, “NASTT plans to continue revamping the Good Practices Training Courses so the programs are fresh and continuously evolving.”
Other items on the agenda include:
• Publish a new CIPP Positive Pressure Applications Manual that is specific to water, gas and pressure sewer applications;
• Provide trenchless technology training at the 2012 APWA conference;
• Build on the pilot program begun in 2011 to establish student certification (major, masters or certificate) in trenchless technology;
• Continue partnerships with Rutgers University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology to develop Student Chapters using the student chapter document for forming a new chapter (created in 2011) that outlines by-laws, benefits and student involvement; and
• Focus on more owner involvement and participation through partnerships with industry associations.
When asked how he perceives the industry is evolving, near- and long-term, Ragula says:
“I believe the trenchless construction industry is going to be better, faster and more efficient. From an equipment and trenchless technology perspective, I think we’ll see even more improvements. In the 80s, horizontal directional drilling was the new kid on the block, now it is commonplace. Now our industry is being introduced to intersect drilling, better tooling, new tool heads, better drill stems and new designs to address problems that occur during construction. Of course, there will always be something new on the horizon, but for the present, the major game changer will be improved processes and equipment; refining what we already have.”
And NASTT is growing right along with the industry, according to Ragula.
“In my opinion, NASTT is growing at a faster pace than the industry. There is a big demand for the products our members have to offer,” he said. “The economy is tough, money is tight and there’s a focus on green technology. I think these things are stimulating an interest for trenchless technology, which helps our society grow even more where other associations have suffered.”
This view was perhaps most evident for Ragula when he attended the International Society for Trenchless Technology (ISTT) Conference in Berlin, Germany last May in his role as the international representative for NASTT. After attending meetings and getting the international perspective, he described how NASTT fills its role within this structure as a positive one.
“There a lot of affiliate societies, of which NASTT is only one,” said Ragula. “However, from what I can glean, NASTT is leading the pack, primarily through the efforts of our dedicated volunteers who are very passionate about trenchless technology. Our members are very innovative and always looking for ways to improve the trenchless process.”
Old and new
Reflecting on the past year as chairperson, Ragula is quick to thank the many volunteers that make up NASTT.
“I’m extremely grateful to the dedicated committee members and volunteers who spend countless hours supporting NASTT. And of course, the NASTT board of directors and staff, who include Michael Willmets, [executive director] and Michelle Hill, our new communications and training manager, have been invaluable to what we are trying to accomplish as a society.”
Among those who volunteer their time are the elected officials. Outgoing board of directors for 2011 include Kaleel Rahaim (Interplastic Corp.); Mark Hallett (SAERTEX MultiCom); Robert Westphal (Michels Corp.); George Cowan (HAKS); and James Hoggatt (South Tahoe Public Utility District).
When Ragula’s second term ends in December 2012, Derek Potvin, P.E., President of Robinson Consultants Inc., will take over as chairperson. “I’m very happy for Derek as he’s ingrained in the trenchless industry,” Ragula said. “I’ll continue to serve as past chair to maintain continuity, which I think is important for an all-volunteer society.”
As an active participant in the development and growth of the gas industry for 32 years, Ragula serves as distribution technology manager for Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G). In his 24 years with the company, Ragula has been responsible for evaluating innovative technologies that increase efficiency and effectiveness of operations for PSE&G. He is tasked with planning, coordinating, managing and implementing procedural and equipment technology transfer with a particular emphasis on increased use of various trenchless technologies. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in New York.
A recognized leader in the gas industry and a strong proponent of trenchless technologies, Ragula is often a featured speaker and moderator at construction industry conventions. In addition to being a member of several gas associations and his volunteer duties for NASTT (joined in 1991), Ragula has received several major industry awards for his contributions and research.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
NASTT: (703) 351-5252 U.S., (613) 424-3036 Canada, www.nasst.org