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Oral history interview with Carol Ann DiPietro

  • 2014-Jan-24

Carol Ann DiPietro's mother's families (Rocchino and Zangrone) left Maida, Italy, to settle in Ambler, Pennsylvania, where her great-grandfather and grandfather worked in the asbestos factory, Keasbey & Mattison Company. Her mother worked there as a secretary and tells of white dust visible in the air and settling all over clothing. A parting gift from the company was a box of raw asbestos, which Carol took to kindergarten show and tell. At that time, however, asbestos was not known to be a hazardous material and no Rocchino relatives died of asbestos-related diseases. Though Carol lived too far from the White Mountains, she had cousins who played there. DiPietro worked at the Ambler Fashion Shop from age fifteen until the store closed in the mid 1990s. During that period the main commercial street was so busy that a traffic policeman was needed on Friday nights. The decline of the town center began with the building of the mall in the 1970s; then CertainTeed Corporation moved out of Ambler. When IMS and a law firm moved away the decline steepened into the 1990s. Fortunately, the real estate market was still good, and crime was still low. When a large high-rise project was proposed for Kane Core, the asbestos problem came to light. DiPietro was living in Lower Gwynedd Township and began attending the high-rise meetings. She says the meetings over the high-rise were contentious over the dominance of the large building, not so much over asbestos. She became interested in the asbestos question, though, and began to attend BoRit community advisory group (CAG) meetings as well. Eventually she was appointed to the Planning Commission. DiPietro compares Ambler's Planning Commission with that of Lower Gwynedd, on which she had also served. She thinks that the CAG's function to provide information about asbestos remediation has dwindled, due in part to the EPA's office nearby and to asbestos fatigue. She thinks the EPA should have done more for Ambler back in the 1980s when the remedy of capping the White Mountains was chosen. She wishes the asbestos at the BoRit site could be taken completely away and points out that much of the same disturbance occurred during the removal action as would have occurred during hauling away. She wants very much to see the six-acre wasted space made into a park-like area. DiPietro is proud of the friendly, dog-walking neighborhoods of Ambler; proud of the town's revival; and proud to be contributing by serving on the Planning Commission.

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