May 2016, Vol. 71 No. 5


NASSCO Standard Bearers: Ray Bahr, Jr.

I was born in Hamden, CT, and studied mechanical engineering at the University of Connecticut. In 1951, I joined the Air Force where I attended pilot training school. After serving three years as an Air Force pilot, I left the military and returned to Connecticut to work for my father, Ray Bahr, Sr., who sold pipe cleaning equipment. All these years later, I still call Connecticut my home.

GrowthRay Bahr Jr.

Occasionally, my father would use the equipment he sold to do a little contract pipe cleaning, so when I worked for him I started doing a few small jobs in addition to my role as salesperson. In August 1955, a hurricane caused major flooding in the Naugatuck Valley, which was home to many large manufacturing plants. Dirt from the flood plugged up sewers and disrupted business, so I took some of my dad’s sales demonstration equipment, got a crew together and worked in the Naugatuck Valley cleaning sewers for about six months.

This experience left me wanting to do less selling and more contractor work, so I started the New England Pipe Cleaning Company in the early 1960s where we did sewer cleaning as well as removing the rust out of water mains. When the 1970s rolled around, the government got involved in controlling infiltration into sewer lines, so I invested in TV equipment and grouting materials to address the problem and meet government standards.

On July 4, 1976, when the rest of the country was celebrating our nation’s bicentennial, I was meeting in Washington, D.C. with Bill Thompson, Will Naylor and Jim Monahan to form NASSCO. The four of us had worked together in some capacity over the years, and we all recognized the need to regulate the work that was happening and to bring a certain level of integrity to the industry. It was an exciting year and an exciting time for NASSCO.

Our greatest objective was to set standard specifications for the work that was being done so that everyone had access to the same guidelines. The four of us brainstormed the NASSCO mission statement. It has evolved slightly over the years, but the essence has remained unchanged: to set standards for the assessment, maintenance and rehabilitation of underground infrastructure and to assure the continued acceptance and growth of trenchless technologies. I am amazed that the mission is just as relevant today as it was 40 years ago.

Originally, when you could count the number of NASSCO members on two hands, Bill Compton and I took turns being president. When I would ask him to take over, he’d say, “Son of a gun, Ray. Ok. I’ll be president one more year, if you’ll promise to take over again next.”

Eventually NASSCO received a grant to foster industry education and write specifications. We used part of the grant to hire Jim Conklin, who served as our first executive director and provided the focus NASSCO deserved.

Our industry has been extremely good to my family and is one in which I am proud to be a part. I followed my father’s footsteps into sewer cleaning and my son, Ray Bahr III, followed mine. He joined New England Pipe Cleaning in 1980 when he turned 16 and was legally old enough to work, starting with cleaning sewers and working his way up to operations manager, sales, estimating … he did whatever needed to be done. Raymond also attended the University of Connecticut, where he received his civil engineering degree and was very much involved with NASSCO, serving on the board of directors for many years during the 1990s.

Looking back on where we started, I am pleased to see the many ways NASSCO standards have really helped level the playing field. Most importantly, they have helped ensure that owners get a good, quality job. That was the common intention shared by the four of us back in 1976. There were still some operators looking for the easy way out, so the development of NASSCO and the standards it created provided accountability. That accountability has helped NASSCO grow steadily, from a fledgling organization of less than 10 people to more than 500 company members today.

The founding members of NASSCO would be astounded to see where it is today, with our mission and vision for this industry not only recognized and achieved, but firmly planted for the future. It is my personal hope that no matter which direction NASSCO takes moving forward, it will stay the course to maintain high standards, elevate the industry through training and specifications and continue to carry on the level of professionalism and respect that this industry, and the dedicated men and women who work so hard to maintain our standards, deserve.

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