January 2017 Vol. 72 No. 1


NASSCO Standard Bearers: Richard Thomasson

EDITOR’S NOTE: NASSCO just completed its 41th year and continues to set standards for the assessment and rehabilitation of underground infrastructure. As the association continues its phenomenal growth, this series profiles those who have made significant contributions and impacted the continued acceptance and growth of trenchless rehabilitation methods. This is a bi-monthly installment in a series of articles exploring the history of NASSCO through the eyes of industry leaders.

This month, NASSCO honors Richard Thomasson, whose contributions to NASSCO include being one of the original professionals to develop and introduce the Pipeline Assessment and Certification Program to the U.S.

Born and raised in Charlottesville, VA, I stayed within the Commonwealth to pursue my undergraduate degree in civil engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). In my junior year of college, I married my high-school sweetheart, Linda, and in 1969, as soon as I received my degree, I began my career with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC).

Over the years, I moved my way up the ranks at WSSC, starting out as Engineer One. I was then promoted to a section head position, which was a supervisory role where I managed some of the engineers, as well as the field crews that did all of the maintenance. I was involved in a number of reconstruction and rehab projects first-hand and was honored to work for one of the first agencies in the U.S. that used cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) trenchless technology to reline sewers.

Over my 31 years at WSSC I progressed to division manager, then to director of maintenance and, finally, director of construction. When I retired from WSSC in May 2000, I went to work with Parsons-Brinkerhoff Engineering Services where I wore two hats: business development and project management for a sewer separation project for the city of Atlanta.

After eight years with Parsons-Brinkerhoff, I accepted a job with Malcolm Pirnie – now Arcadis – where I remain today. My role at Arcadis includes project management of engineering services for a consent decree within WSSC, as well as project management for Ann Arundel County, MD, where we focus on water rehabilitation work. Additionally, I am involved in business development for a variety of utilities in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., and Baltimore areas.



Throughout my career, I have been involved with NASSCO and was one of the first of the initial group of industry professionals who worked with the Water Research Centre (WRc) in the United Kingdom to develop the Pipeline Assessment Certification Program (PACP). Those of us in that small group will never forget when we met in Atlanta to hammer out some of the details of the program. Gathered in the conference room on Sept. 11, 2001, our phones started ringing and we were all told the horrific news of the planes hitting the Twin Towers. PACP was launched soon after, and I’ve been involved as a trainer ever since.

We knew when we were developing PACP that it would take some time to educate the industry about the benefits. Consultants and utilities had their own systems for grading sewers and how they handled defects, so we knew we would need to overcome their familiar habits. Because the program was developed using WRc proven systems – and “Americanized” for the U.S. market by modifying terminology and content – the high level of integrity of PACP made the adoption cycle shorter than we expected. All of the major CCTV companies soon agreed to become a part of PACP and further agreed to develop their software systems to handle the PACP coding. After that, it was a matter of selling the idea to the utilities and proving the value of standardized coding versus trying to mesh information or data from a variety of different companies.

It took about five years to gain traction and buy-in, but since that time acceptance has snowballed and the impact has been great. Today, most utilities require PACP-certified individuals to do the work, and in my role as a PACP trainer, I also train a number of engineers. I just completed a class in Jacksonville, FL, where all operators are required to be certified in PACP, as well as MACP (Manhole Assessment Certification Program) and LACP (Lateral Assessment Certification Program).

PACP has done a great job of standardizing data, but a less obvious benefit is how it has become a major part of asset management programs. Being able to develop rating systems for defects and tracking that data over the years has provided baseline statistics that continue to grow in relevance, providing a foundation to accurately evaluate risk and plan for asset management using PACP data.

PACP is just one of the many ways NASSCO has made a significant impact on our industry, and I believe the reason NASSCO has been so successful is because of the people behind the processes. I have personally known all of NASSCO’s executive directors, and each and everyone one of them, including current Executive Director Ted DeBoda, has been dedicated and focused. They have each contributed significant influence to develop specifications and standard operating procedures for our industry, and they have done a fine job at it. NASSCO’s executive

directors, along with Technical Directors Gerry Muenchmeyer and now Lynn Osborn, have served as the anchors to help others stay focused on NASSCO’s mission to set standards for the assessment, maintenance and rehabilitation of underground infrastructure.

Another important element to the success of NASSCO and its ability to provide standards industry-wide is the relationship it has developed with other organizations such as the North American Society of Trenchless Technology (NASTT). As one of five founders of NASTT, I have personally seen first-hand over the years how NASSCO has worked proactively with NASTT and other associations and organizations, such as WEF Collection System Committees, to do what is best, what is right, for our industry.


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