PPI’s Municipal Advisory Board honors HDPE expert with scholarship program

(UI) — The Municipal Advisory Board (MAB) announced the creation of a scholarship program in the name of Eric Shaffer, Chief Engineer at City of Duluth, Minnesota. A nationally recognized expert on high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe for potable water and wastewater systems, Shaffer was a long-time volunteer and contributing member of the MAB. He passed away in January 2023 from injuries sustained in a snowmobile accident.

HDPE expert Eric Schaffer
Eric Schaffer

When attendance is approved by the utility, the Eric Shaffer Memorial Award pays the tuition for the MAB-conducted Fusion Seminar, where students learn from experts and receive hands-on training in the proper fusion and electrofusion methods for HDPE water piping systems.

The next class is scheduled for July 30 – August 4, 2023, at the Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Upon successful completion of the course, students will receive a Certificate of Competency Completion from the college.

Established in 2008, MAB serves as an independent, non-commercial adviser to the Municipal & Industrial Division of the Plastics Pipe Institute, Inc. (PPI), the major North American trade association representing the plastic pipe industry.

“For more than a decade, Eric was an integral part of MAB, tirelessly giving his time and expertise to improve the water systems of not only Duluth but our entire country. MAB members sought a way to honor his contributions and unanimously agreed that a scholarship program would enable more students to attend the Fusion Seminar program he helped to create,” said Camille George Rubeiz, P.E., F. ASCE, co-chair, Municipal Advisory Board and senior director of engineering, Municipal and Industrial Division of PPI.

Luis Aguiar, MAB co-chair and co-founder, Senior Associate with Hazen & Sawyer’s Miami-Fort Lauderdale area office and previously the Assistant Director Water Operations at Miami-Dade Water & Sewer, said, “We were always humbled by the amount of effort and the intellectual contributions Eric provided to our research and training groups. He inspired us to go further, work harder and provide more essential information to the utilities. Eric also always wanted to educate others. So, it is very fitting that we honor him by enabling operators to heighten their HDPE knowledge and skills with this scholarship fund.”

The MAB-NWTC Fusion Seminars include training on 4” DIPS high-density polyethylene (HDPE) water piping systems using both manual and hydraulic butt fusion procedures and electrofusion of couplers and saddles.

“This curriculum has been developed for HDPE utility employees such as Operators, Inspectors and Engineers with little to no prior experience in fusion,” explained Greg Scoby, PE, Chairman of the Municipal Advisory Board (MAB) Utility Committee and previously the Engineering Manager for the City of Palo Alto, CA. “In 2020 and 2021, MAB surveyed utilities in the US and Canada and every utility selected this training as their number one priority. As such, MAB, which is utility led and utility run, prioritized its projects and made this training the number one priority to continuously improve the installation of HDPE fusion and electrofusion joints.”

The classes, both instructive and mostly hands-on, are taught by experts in the plastic pipe industry. Topics include standard electrofusion with couplers, standard electrofusion for saddles, manual butt fusion and instruction on using a hydraulic butt fusion machine. Attendees also learn about the MAB accepted standards and qualifications for water utility work.

The class size is limited to 10 students. The course is currently being conducted at the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay, which has the facilities and equipment available for the group’s use.

Upon successful completion of the required written, visual, and destructive testing, students receive a Certificate of Competency Completion Card from the college and a Qualification Card will be issued from the utility (owner) that has sponsored the trainee to attend the class.

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