June 2019 Vol.74 No. 6

Rehab Technology

NASSCO Standard Bearers—Tad Powell

NASSCO, now in its 45th year, continues to set standards for the assessment and rehabilitation of underground infrastructure. A vast array of individuals have contributed to the success of the association, both in the past and present, that has driven NASSCO’s industry mission. This series of articles recognizes those who have not only been critical to the success of NASSCO, but the industry as well.


Tad Powell


Tad Powell

I am the son of a carpenter. Growing up in rural Alabama, my father had me working at the age of 10 years old. Every summer I would shadow my dad, learning the value of working with my hands and—most importantly—how to treat people with respect. During those early years I learned that whether we were building one of the most extravagant homes in town or adding on a small room for a growing family, the most important part of the job was to treat everyone—rich or poor—with the same level of dignity, and to always keep my word.

Dad often reminded me that anyone can do the work, but how people remember you is what counts. Even when his employees wanted to branch out and start their own competitive businesses, he was right by their side supporting them every step of the way, even visiting their job sites to help them work through a problem. I learned so much from that and it provided me with a great foundation.

As I grew older, I was introduced to the operational side of running a business, and most folks assumed I’d take over Dad’s company one day. He had other ideas, however, and was determined to put my sister and me through college. Besides, I inherently knew from an early age that I wanted to be an engineer. I found math and science so interesting and was anxious to learn how to apply engineering principles to what I had learned about construction.

Early career

I received my Bachelor’s in civil engineering from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. When I graduated in 1997, one of my professors, who worked for an engineering company called US Infrastructure, asked me to join his team. They were one year into a giant, 10-plus-year consent decree program in Jefferson County, Ala. They were on the forefront of trenchless rehabilitation and I immediately fell in love with it.

I was exposed to highly specialized companies, products and technologies for cured-in-place pipe (CIPP), manhole rehabilitation and others, and I had the privilege of watching them evolve. There were no specifications back then, so we had bits and pieces we’d pull together from ASTM, manufacturer specifications and other resources. Modifications to the specs were constantly being made and we were on the cutting edge of how to inspect, document and deliver the work.

The work was paused while the county cleaned up some of its business practices, so after 10 years with US Infrastructure I switched gears and went to work for another engineering firm that focused on site development. I was there for about four years and learned a lot about helping municipalities evaluate plans; it was true civil engineering work.

I knew, however, that I wanted to go back to the trenchless rehabilitation side. Specifically, I wanted to learn more about construction. Insituform had an opening and it was a perfect match. For five years I worked as a project manager, covering the states of Alabama, Mississippi, and parts of Florida and Tennessee. It was eye opening to learn what the true cost of rehabilitation means. We all see the revenue side of CIPP work, but to understand how material, labor and transportation costs can impact a project, and then actually build the job at or below budget, was very rewarding.

Hazen & Sawyer helped bring the Jefferson County Program back to life when it was selected to manage the next phase of the program. They needed a construction manager to piece everything together, and it seemed like a great fit for me. Using my experience in constructability assessments, product selection and evaluation of rehabilitation needs to prioritize and direct work, specification and plan creation, cost estimation, and being the action arm for the implementation of rehabilitation solutions, I joined the firm to take on that role in 2015.

The earlier project didn’t have technology available to do true flow modeling, so we now had the opportunity to develop an all-encompassing plan to look at the entire system, from collection to pumping stations, to treatment plants. This was a great opportunity for me to put together all my experience. My first 10 years in the field exposed me to trenchless technologies, then I learned about the construction side, and now I could pair my knowledge up with a true engineering company that had the resources to pull off a big program like Jefferson County.

NASSCO involvement

I was introduced to NASSCO by Jimmy Stewart when I started my job at Hazen & Sawyer. As a contractor with Insituform, it was like I was drinking from a firehose. In my new role, I had some breathing room and wanted to learn more about the industry. I attended my first NASSCO Annual Conference in Naples, Fla., and as a contractor organization, it felt like going home. I had no idea that NASSCO had so much to offer beyond PACP.

Will Markey invited me to participate on the Health and Safety Committee. I jumped right in, and today I serve as the committee’s chair. I also quickly saw that NASSCO members are non-competitive when it comes to developing standards to benefit the entire industry. I also really appreciate that the committees are self-driven and not controlled by NASSCO. This fosters true creativity and collaboration among members, resulting in the best standards possible.

My hope for NASSCO’s future is to always stay focused on its mission to set standards for the assessment, maintenance and rehabilitation of underground infrastructure, and to assure the continued acceptance and growth of trenchless technologies. Personally, my goal is to help the organization make specifications easy to understand through education.

Even now I work with engineers who will ask for a manhole spec, but they don’t really understand what they are asking for—they just want to check a box that they have included it. I would like to see specifications broken out by different types of products, with simple explanations of what a specification is, what it means and why it is important.

As I continue to work with other NASSCO members and industry leaders, I also hope to always project the value of treating each other well and helping each other out—even my competitors—as my father taught me so many years ago.

Related Articles

From Archive


{{ error }}
{{ comment.comment.Name }} • {{ comment.timeAgo }}
{{ comment.comment.Text }}