March 2020 Vol. 75 No. 3

Rehab Technology

NASSCO Standard Bearer: Lynn Osborn

NASSCO continues to set standards for the assessment and rehabilitation of underground infrastructure. A vast array of individuals has contributed to the success of the association, both in the past and present, and 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.

This month, long-time, industry respected CIPP and rehabilitation expert Lynn Osborn is profiled. Not only has he been active in NASSCO for many years, but he has served as key member of numerous industry associations and groups. He has been repeatedly recognized for his tireless efforts to improve and enhance the rehabilitation industry.


I’ve read about other NASSCO Standard Bearers and how their fathers swept them into the industry to follow a family legacy of maintaining underground infrastructure. That’s not my story! Growing up in a small town on the plains of western Kansas, the closest I came to sewer service was messing around with my friends at the sewage treatment plant about a half-mile from where we lived.

My story’s a little different. My dad owned a hardware store and sold home appliances, and hunting and fishing equipment. I recall an unfortunate incident when one of his employees got trapped under a house during a furnace installation and had to be cut out of the floor. As a 12-year old, I fit the bill to step in and help run ducts through crawl spaces. Sometimes I wouldn’t fit under the floor joists, but my small frame could easily crawl through the 18-inch space between joists.

After high school I went to Kansas Wesleyan University and spent summers on a harvest crew cutting wheat to pay my tuition. I received a degree in biology and chemistry, but at 22 years old I had no idea what I wanted to do next. I had applied to medical school but had to wait a year to enroll, so for the next summer I continued working as a member of the harvest crew.

One day in 1969, while cutting wheat in North Dakota, my boss let me know I received my draft notice. It was the last few months of the draft for the Vietnam War and, to select my specialty, I enlisted in the Army. After I completed basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., I went on to Fort Lee, Va., where after six months of training, I became an instructor for the petroleum school – transporting, storing and testing petroleum products – until I got my orders to report to Vietnam in 1971. My wife Ivy and oldest daughter were living with me in Virginia, so we loaded up the car and I drove my family back to Kansas to live, while I completed my tour.

I was discharged and returned home in 1972. Still not knowing what I wanted to do in life, I had purchased a semi-tractor and was moving mobile homes around the central part of the U.S. That same summer, at Canyon Lake Dam in Rapid City, S.D., the spillway became clogged with debris following heavy rains and the dam failed – resulting in severe flooding. It was devastating. More than 1,300 homes and thousands of automobiles were destroyed, but even more devastating were the 3,000 injuries and sadly, 238 deaths that resulted from the dam break.

I worked with the federal government to move mobile homes to Rapid City to provide housing for the displaced residents. I continued doing this until one day a driver ran a red light, causing me to T-bone her car. Luckily, she was not seriously injured, but it woke me up to the fact that I needed to make a change. I sold the tractor and entered graduate school at the University of Kansas, an opportunity that would not have been possible without Ivy supporting our growing family as a registered nurse.

New direction

I graduated with a Master’s in Civil Engineering in 1975 – right when the Federal Water Pollution Control Act 92-500 was gaining traction. The federal government was coming through with all kinds of grants to restore and maintain the integrity of the nation’s wastewater systems, and I saw this as a great opportunity and now had clear direction on where to focus my career. I began working for Wilson & Company, an engineering firm in Salina, Kans., that had received grants for wastewater treatment and collection evaluation, repair or replacement. After five years in the Salina office I was transferred to the Wichita office, where I worked for four more years. 

Lynn and Ivy Osborn
Lynn and Ivy Osborn

I spent a lot of time in the office and after nine years with Wilson & Company, I wanted more in terms of field work. Maybe it was my harvest days that I longed for. Coincidentally, around that same time, a friend who was the assistant sewer maintenance director for Wichita called and told me he was supposed to go to St. Louis to see a new process called Insituform, but his son was ill and he couldn’t go. He asked me if I could take his place, so I agreed.

Bob Affholder flew a group of us to St. Louis and we drove downtown to see a cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) installation. I came home and told my wife, “One day I’m going to work for that company.” Soon thereafter I saw an ad in the Wall Street Journal for a position with Insituform of North America in Memphis. I interviewed in December 1983, started on Jan. 16, 1984, and worked there for 31 years.

My first role at Insituform was associate technical director. Sounds impressive, but there were only two of us, the technical director, Tom Driver, and me. I was employee number 25 of Insituform North America back when its business model was manufacturing CIPP tubes and licensing contractors to install the product. I was once again able to get back in the field by visiting licensees to help with training on new installation techniques and providing other support. Back in the mid-1980s, tubes were typically small-diameter – 24-inch was an accomplishment – and we were getting requests for larger tubes, which required different installation processes and techniques. So, as the industry changed and grew, so did my education and knowledge.

Unique experience

During my time at Insituform, I was honored to have worked side-by-side with Eric Wood, the inventor of CIPP. It all started when he was asked by the Greater London Council to help find a method of rehabilitating sewer pipes for Thames Water. Eric’s invention of CIPP was first used in 1971 in an egg-shaped Victorian sewer in the London Borough of Hackney which, as far as I know, is still in service to this day. 

Lynn Osborn (right) and Eugene Zaltsman at a break in a NASSCO meeting.
Lynn Osborn (right) and Eugene Zaltsman at a break in a NASSCO meeting.

After this success, Eric helped form Insituform International and then Insituform Group Limited and went on to register numerous patents until his sad and untimely death in a 1994 airplane crash that took his life, and that of his son.

Insituform was very much involved with NASSCO. In fact, Al Colthorp, Insituform’s former director of marketing, was one of a handful of guys who started NASSCO back in 1976. When he left Insituform of North America and joined Insituform Mid-America, others took up the NASSCO banner, including me.

In 2006 I was nominated to serve on NASSCO’s Board of Directors and have been extremely involved ever since. In fact, when I retired from Insituform in December 2014, I had formed LEO Consulting to provide consulting services to the industry. NASSCO’s former technical director, Gerry Muenchmeyer, was looking for his successor in that role and asked me to consider taking over.

I became NASSCO’s Technical Director as of Jan. 1, 2015 and will continue to serve in that role until NASSCO’s 2020 Annual Conference. Luckily, I will continue to remain involved through my participation as one of five members of NASSCO’s newly formed Technical Advisory Council.

Over the year, I have had the privilege of watching NASSCO continue to evolve and grow. Originally formed as a contractor trade association to set standards for the assessment, maintenance and rehabilitation of underground infrastructure and to assure the continued acceptance and growth of trenchless technologies, NASSCO now also does an excellent job of representing other segments of the industry. These include public agencies and system owners, consulting engineers, and the suppliers and manufacturers of trenchless technology equipment and materials. This has resulted in broader knowledge and more ideas to move our industry forward.

When it comes to standards, the best and most productive thing that can happen for our industry is for people, organizations and associations to come together to have a consistent voice for setting quality standards, so work is done right the first time. As far back as the late 1980s, I remember working with APWA and Dave Magill (Avanti) on several seminars promoting trenchless technologies. Dave was a leader in grouting, and I represented CIPP. While some may consider those opposing technologies, Dave and I knew that each rehabilitation project was unique and, therefore, a variety of trenchless solutions presented a huge opportunity to build awareness and raise the tide for everyone.

At its core, that’s what NASSCO is all about – competitors coming together to focus on one thing: improving the way we serve our communities through the proper inspection, maintenance and rehabilitation of underground infrastructure. •

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