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Magazines & Newsletters / ASTM Standardization News


July/August 2008

"Cooperative Antagonism"

As I was reading the article, “From Carousel to Coaster: F24 and Amusement Ride Standards,” in the May/June issue, I came across the words, “Hale and others acknowledge that the amusement business is fiercely competitive. But competition, differences and rivalries all get left at the door...”

I suspect that is true of most, if not all, of ASTM’s wonderful committees. Let me tell you about the formation of Committee F20 on Hazardous Substances and Oil Spill Response in 1975.
My company, Illinois Chemical Corp., was selling equipment and training for managing oil (and later, hazardous material) spills. One day I received a phone call asking if I was interested in attending a meeting at ASTM (“What is that?” I asked) in Philadelphia for the purpose of establishing some standards in our industry. Intrigued, I replied in the affirmative and some days later, off I went.

That first meeting included many competitors, a number of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada personnel, equipment manufacturers, other distributors and cleanup contractors. They were highly competitive, often antagonistic, uncommunicative and frequently downright unfriendly.

A U.S. EPA representative from the Atlanta region told us a story. He was in charge of cleaning up an oil spill, and had to decide when to stop. “How clean is clean?” he asked. There were no guidelines, so he had to make a decision. He arbitrarily decided that 50 parts per million was when he would stop, which he did. His report stated that 50 ppm had no basis in fact or experiment, was completely arbitrary and basically picked out of thin air. To his surprise, that 50 ppm was established as the U.S. EPA standard for oil spill cleanup. His reaction was to try to get ASTM to form a committee in order, as he put it, “for you people to protect yourself.”

Well, F20 was established that day. A few irascible attendees dropped out shortly thereafter. The remaining ones became fast friends, despite the continuing high competition in oil spill management. Calling on a competitor for assistance when necessary became commonplace because we all became friends and co-workers in ASTM. I like to think that the standards we developed over time have made a significant contribution to the management of both oil and hazardous material spill problems.

Some of the original attendees at that meeting are still active in F20. Many have retired, some have passed on. But the friendships remain. As a result of my activities I met and treasure relationships with people I would never have met otherwise. My friends here at home often asked me why I spent time with ASTM. My reply was always that I was making a contribution to my industry, but most important of all was that I was meeting often brilliant and wonderful people who had become my friends.

William B. Katz
Founding member and former vice-chair,
ASTM Committee F20
Member, ASTM Committee E50 on Environmental Assessment, Risk Management and Corrective Action
ASTM fellow and Award of Merit winner

Setting the Record Straight

I, John H. Bystrom, respond with a chuckle and some tongue in cheek to the notice of my death ASTM published as the first obituary item in the May/June 2008 issue of SN.

I have a couple of objections to it. First: It’s a bit premature! I’ve passed my 91st birthday, so I can’t have many left. However, I’m in great shape, have good friends and enjoy life to the hilt. Second: This tiny obituary reported that I had been a member of the nuclear Committees C26 and E10. However, I was also a member of the ASTM staff and joined these committees as I retired in 1979. I served as a task group chair in E10 for years and treasure the privilege of my continuing membership with them and with the society.

I consider ASTM to be one of the really great organizations of the world, and I’m very proud of my association with it.

John H. Bystrom
Retired ASTM staff manager

We apologize to Mr. Bystrom and his family and friends for our error and for the information missing about his distinguished career at and contributions to ASTM. —Editor