May 2020 Vol. 75 No. 5


NASSCO Standard Bearer: Keith Alexander

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, 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. 

This month, a second-generation NASSCO member is profiled. Not only has Keith Alexander, and his father before him, been strong leaders and active participants in the association, but both have served as NASSCO presidents. Keith continues to be involved in NASSCO and has been a key part of its growth. 


The inspection, maintenance and repair of underground infrastructure has been a part of the Alexander family legacy for decades. Back in 1954, my grandfather started Super Excavators, a Wisconsin company that focused on open-cut trenching of sanitary sewer, storm sewer and water mains. Over the years, the company has grown in both size and scope to include tunneling, micro-tunneling and other services. 

With the introduction of trenchless technologies, my father, Ernie Alexander, along with four other investors, founded Visu-Sewer in 1975. Today, Visu-Sewer has been blessed with growth that includes six service centers and an industrial maintenance group with well over 200 employees. 

While I eventually ended up following in their footsteps, I explored a few other career paths. After high school, I worked in a manufacturing plant, but quickly learned I didn’t like the walls around me. I went to college at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where I played four years of football and coached one year. 

I even gave landscaping a try during college, but during my senior year I interned at my dad’s company with the sales team and realized it was where I was meant to be. When I graduated in the fall of 1989, I became a full-time employee and just celebrated 30 years with Visu-Sewer. 

Over the years, I’ve seen first-hand the growth and acceptance of trenchless technologies. In 1980 Visu-Sewer was mostly doing cleaning and grout work. At one time we had eight grout crews. I became involved in NASSCO partly because my father was president from 1985–1986, but also because I saw the industry come together to advocate for grouting technology under NASSCO’s leadership. In addition to fighting the EPA to overturn the ban on acrylamide grout, NASSCO committees also develop the specification guidelines for grout and other technologies which have become an important part of the way we do business. 

Technology advances 

When Insituform came into play in the mid-1980s it tried to get Visu-Sewer to become a licensee. My dad was interested, but the other four partners were not. Dad had a vision to rehabilitate pipe using CIPP, so he saved up a nest egg and in 1988 entered the market with a competing system. 

Visu-Sewer also provided other technologies, including fold-and-form, because we are strong believers that there is more than one way to fix a problem. While we try not to play the part of engineer, we do have decades of experience with different technologies and want to do what is right for each unique circumstance. In the end, more options mean better work for the system owner. 

In the early 1990s our sales manager resigned, so I was thrust from sales to management with one other gentleman to handle management in our Minneapolis office. I wanted to learn as much about the industry as I possibly could, so I became even more involved in NASSCO. I was nominated to the board in the late 1990s and served as NASSCO President from 2003–2004. 

This was around the time that PACP was launched. We could see inspections being done differently by different contractors and realized that a common language was needed. NASSCO brought it all under one umbrella by working with WRc to adopt a common coding system for North America, working with software vendors that would record the inspection data, and addressing the way manufacturing would change as a result of this new standard. 

The introduction of PACP gave NASSCO the resources to make real change for our industry. When I first got involved, the association was having significant financial challenges. We were lucky to afford a bucket of popcorn for our annual meeting. Mike Burkhard stepped in as executive director and helped set the course to get NASSCO on solid financial ground. 

Irv Gemora took over as executive director shortly after that and helped take the association to the next level through his strong promotion and understanding of PACP, and the quality and value it offers our industry – specifically system owners who need to manage assets properly. 

Commitment, future 

While NASSCO has grown and changed over the years, the one thing I have noticed never wavers is the association’s commitment to standards, and that is why I am proud and honored to be recognized as a NASSCO Standard Bearer. I truly believe that if we don’t hold ourselves and our industry to high standards, everyone – including our communities – suffers. 

NASSCO’s recent commitment to understand the safety of emissions from the CIPP process is a great example. NASSCO commissioned the Center for Underground Infrastructure Research and Education (CUIRE) at the University of Texas-Arlington to do a thorough review of all published literature regarding the safety of CIPP emissions. The findings showed that earlier reports were non-conclusive. As a result, NASSCO stepped up and funded field studies which were conducted by the Trenchless Technology Center (TTC) at Louisiana Tech, in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

The 18-month study tested a variety of pipe sizes in different geographic locations. TTC’s final report recommended, among other things, active air monitoring by those entering the liner truck, as well as keeping at 15-foot perimeter around emission stacks (which should be six feet in height). 

Visu-Sewer did not take these recommendations lightly. We follow the recommendations with precision and educate our workers every day on the importance of safety in the field. Most of the recommendations are truly operational common sense. We know what to do to keep our workers and our communities safe, and luckily, we have the knowledge within our industry, tools and resources to do just that. 

My hope for NASSCO’s future is that we continue to come together to set standards for the assessment, maintenance and rehabilitation of underground infrastructure and to assure the continued acceptance and growth of trenchless technologies. I also hope we never lose the personal connections and cooperation that have developed over the years, because family is just as important to me in my own business as it is to the friendships I have developed through my involvement with NASSCO

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