Salvatore A. Boccuti

Born: June 3, 1943 | Norristown, PA, US

Salvatore A. Boccuti grew up in Ambler, Pennsylvania. He practiced accounting for a number of years but sold his practice to become an aerial photographer. As a child he played on the White Mountains of Ambler and played baseball on the field that preceded the post office building. He was a co-chair of the CAG and has served on several of the work groups, currently the rules group. He describes some of the CAG's organization and explains the communication procedures between the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the citizens of the several municipal entities involved. Boccuti discusses remediation at the BoRit site, regretting that the asbestos will not be removed entirely or its chemical structure altered. Boccuti points to the long latency period for asbestos-caused disease, and says that those who have not yet sickened are not likely to do so now. He does say that the EPA does not do air testing, which causes worry about capped asbestos becoming airborne in the future. When asked what lessons Ambler might provide for other communities, he stresses the importance of good and strong leadership; continual oversight by citizens; and in-depth knowledge. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0814
No. of pages: 23
Minutes: 57

Interview Sessions

Lee Sullivan Berry
6 January 2014
Ambler, Pennsylvania

Abstract of Interview

Salvatore A. Boccuti grew up in Ambler, Pennsylvania. His father was a tailor, and his mother became a court crier in Montgomery County. He practiced accounting for a number of years but sold his practice to become an aerial photographer; his pictures of BoRit Asbestos Area are found on the Ambler community advisory group's website. As a child he played on the White Mountains of Ambler and played baseball on the field that preceded the post office building. On St. Francis Day, he watched fireworks shot from the piles. He has not contracted any asbestos-caused diseases, and feels he would have by now if he were going to. Boccuti notes Sharon McCormick's fight against a developer who proposed to build a seventeen-story high-rise on what is now the BoRit Asbestos Area. Sharon's public commitment helped to inspire him and when the CAG was formed Boccuti wanted to help. He was a co-chair of the CAG and has served on several of the work groups, currently the rules group. He describes some of the CAG's organization and explains the communication procedures between the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the citizens of the several municipal entities involved. Boccuti discusses remediation at the BoRit site, regretting that the asbestos will not be removed entirely or its chemical structure altered. He believes that it will be capped as the White Mountains were, and that the site will also remain useless for development. He is hopeful that the reservoir, currently being drained, will be cleaned up and refilled to be used as a waterfowl preserve. Boccuti points to the long latency period for asbestos-caused disease, and says that those who have not yet sickened are not likely to do so now. Nightlife is returning; housing is sold before fully built; good restaurants are increasing. Revitalization brings other concerns, namely road structure and parking, but Boccuti is not concerned about present contamination. He does say that the EPA does not do air testing, which causes worry about capped asbestos becoming airborne in the future. He would like to see BoRit become a mixed-use area, but is not optimistic; he says the EPA will do what it wants. When asked what lessons Ambler might provide for other communities, he stresses the importance of good and strong leadership; continual oversight by citizens; and in-depth knowledge. He loves Ambler, which he characterizes as a very nice and safe town, and he hopes for continued growth. 

Table of Contents

Biographical Information
1

Grew up in Ambler, Pennsylvania. Attended Roman Catholic schools. Accounting degree from Drexel University. Continued to live in Ambler. Sold accounting business to pursue aerial photography. Mostly commercial photography; documentation of construction; mainly malls. Pictures of BoRit Asbestos Area on community advisory group (CAG) website. As a child played on White Mountains. Baseball field where Post Office is now. Fireworks shot from piles on St. Francis Day.

Getting Involved
7

Joined Ambler community advisory group (CAG) at its inception. Sharon McCormick driving force. Wanted to help, to know what was going on. Details of CAG organization, communications between citizens and US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Stakeholders from different municipal groups. Working groups. Was chair of future plans group; co-chair of CAG; now on rules committee. Time-consuming. Sought from EPA information about their methods and their results. Disseminated information to citizens by website and individual representatives. Those nearest asbestos aware of hazard, others not.

Remediation
9

Removal means removal of threat, not of asbestos. Some asbestos removed, but most capped and planted. Same will happen to BoRit; reservoir will be drained, the bottom cleaned, and water returned. Long latency period for asbestos. Would prefer vitrification of chemical change of structure; fears capping will fail. Difficult to develop in Ambler because of asbestos. No concerns about living in Ambler; has lived there all his life. Worries that capped asbestos could become airborne, but EPA does not do air testing. Concerned about road structure, parking. Nice town, now developing well. Blames malls for previous decline. Thinks asbestos main problem for further development; other chemicals involved too. Would like mixed use for BoRit site, but fears it will be fenced off and useless, like previously remediated piles.

General Thoughts
15

CAG still meeting. McCormick brings up something every meeting, but no changes. EPA will do what it chooses; best practice at lowest price. Thinks different municipal groups have worked well together. Lessons for other communities: find leader like McCormick; do research, communicate. Keep up with what is going on. CAG a good thing. Rules committee of CAG just controls functioning of CAG. Advent of nearby malls main reason for decline in town's economy; Keasbey & Mattison Company's closing secondary blow. Ambler does not want stigma of asbestos contamination; glad to see remediation done fast. His biggest hope: continued growth; biggest concern: getting rid of asbestos. Ambler safe place to live now.

Index
22

About the Interviewer

Lee Sullivan Berry

Lee Sullivan Berry earned a master’s degree in medieval studies from the University of Notre Dame, and a bachelor of arts degree in religious studies from the University of Pennsylvania. As a staff member in the Center for Oral History, Berry conducts background research and oral history interviews, edits transcripts of completed interviews, and coordinates with interviewers and interviewees to finalize transcripts. She was the lead interviewer for the REACH Ambler project and has presented her work at meetings of the American Society for Environmental History and Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region.