An interesting discussion point between customers, consulting engineers, installers, earthwork contractors and manufacturers is usually the successful installation of geosynthetic systems. Naturally there is also in most cases a huge difference in opinions and it is found that in some cases the customers are still not convinced about the benefits and successes of geosynthetic installations.
This difference in opinion is normally argued from very different angles, but the end-users are in many cases misinformed or had bad experiences during an installation process. The successful installation of geosynthetics, like all other materials can be influenced by so many factors during the installation process, thus it is normally quite difficult to determine precisely why it was successful or not.
If one looks at the overall picture of the installation process it is important to realize that this is just another project that must be managed carefully to assure all detail is available to all the parties involved at all times and that the project can only be successful if all the parties are working together as a team. It has been proven over many years that the most successful projects are those that were managed under strict process controlled conditions, with well-informed teams and good teamwork.
A large part of the responsibility for successful projects depends on the good communication between the team and the project management as well as how well informed the project management is at all times. In order to achieve this, over many years of development, it was realized that the best way for the project management team or manager to control and manage the project is to have a proper quality assurance and quality control plan implemented on the project as well as an independent representative on the project that can act as an independent 3rd party on management’s behalf and who has no obligation to anyone but management to ensure that all processes are under control at all times, without being influenced by any single one of the parties involved with the installation.
The independent 3rd party company can serve different purposes during installation and act on behalf of the owner, the design engineer or the earthworks contractor since the installer is usually a sub-contractor to the earthworks contractor. The independent 3rd party company will therefore be responsible for the quality assurance of the geosynthetic installation, and can also play a vital role in different stages of a project e.g. they can be involved when the project specification is compiled prior to tender stage, can be involved during tender stage to assess the quality assurance and control processes of the installer, and to be a communication channel between all the parties during construction namely the customer, engineer, earthworks contractor and installer. The quality assurance part of the project is a process orientated exercise e.g. ensuring the installation of good quality geosynthetic material is in line with the SANS 10409 national standard, manufacturers installation instructions, industry best practice and pre-determined project specifications, unlike quality control which is a product orientated exercise and therefore this includes all the testing that must be carried out by the installer to ensure the quality of the seaming installation is correct, but also forms a part of the quality assurance plan of the project.
It is a well known fact that if a leak occurs in the geosynthetic liner system it is usally due to other external factors and very rearly as a result of bad quality material, but rather due to project spesifications and industry best practices not being followed, material handling and the process of placing cover material over the installed liner. This is why it is so critical to have a totally independant person on the project to ensure the pre-determined processes are well implemented and executed, to prevent material damage of any sort or if there are damage to material during the installation process, to report on it in order to fix the problem immediately and to mitigate preventive actions to ensure damage is limited.
TRI Africa Environmental Services (Pty) Ltd is such an independent 3rd party company who specialises in quality assurance. They have vast experience in the geosynthetic installation processes with a state of the art software programme to co-capture quality control information and to provide the customer with a detailed project pack after completion.
The question is often asked if it is possible to build a facility with a zero leak rate and the answer is “yes, it is possible to build a facility with a zero leak rate”, BUT, the secret to the success of such a project has been determined to be the implementation of thorough quality assurance as well as independent representation on the project.