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Oral history interview with Eduardo Rovira

  • 2014-Mar-12

Eduardo Rovira received a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Puerto Rico. Shortly after college he began working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He spent six years as an oil inspector and then became an on-scene coordinator (OSC) in the five-state region that includes Pennsylvania. When he was called in to perform the initial assessment of the BoRit Asbestos Site, he recommended more sampling of air and water especially. Although a full year of testing found that asbestos risk was too low to require intervention, the EPA decided to list the site on the Superfund National Priorities List anyway. Their justification was that there were both visible and hidden asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) that could potentially be made hazardous by people or weather.

Rovira describes the different processes involved in remediating Wissahickon Creek, Rose Valley Creek, and Tannery Run Creek. Though they have most elements in common, there were some variations of treatment. Wissahickon Creekís channel was widened and its banks were stabilized by clearcutting vegetation, including all trees. Then the area was leveled and covered with geocells, then topsoil, hydroseeding, riprap, and straw mats to prevent erosion. When Rose Valley's cable concrete mats (CCMs) were destroyed by a tropical storm the EPA replaced the original CCMs with stronger, better-anchored CCMs with riprap. Tannery Run had to be partially routed through an eight-foot pipe to preserve a collapsing parking lot, and the Run also required CCMs. Remediation away from the creeks did not require these more extreme measures; the area was clearcut and then covered with geo-fabric, topsoil, straw mats, and vegetation. The EPA is now dredging the reservoir to test the ground underneath; the water will be treated and discharged to the Wissahickon Creek. When this process is complete, water will be pumped back into the pond and vegetation will be replanted, in the hope of inducing birds to return.

Rovira explains his communication with the citizens of the area; he says he sends a weekly email update, and he is available for questions at any time. Even invasive activities have not produced hazardous levels of asbestos, and peopleís fears have decreased with the years of cleanup. Rovira thinks that capping is the safest and ultimately the cheapest method of remediation. He points out that the Ambler piles were hilly and did not lend themselves to development, but the BoRit site is flat and will be suitable for whatever purpose the citizens choose, probably a park; he believes this remediation will be completed in about a year and a half. Amblerís experience should, in his opinion, remind other communities to be involved early, to have good leaders, and to try to understand the issues involved.

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