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Oral history interview with Gordon Chase

  • 2014-Jan-17

Gordon Chase grew up in London, England. He worked for Shell International Petroleum Company and then smaller companies, trading oil and petrochemical products, until he retired to travel. A visit to Kathmandu, Nepal, inspired an interest in pollution control, and he obtained a BSc (Hons) degree in environmental studies and diploma in pollution control from The Open University. Chase met his wife in Boston, Massachusetts, and the couple moved to Ambler, Pennsylvania, to be near her parents. Chase joined the BoRit community advisory group (CAG), is now chair of the Removal, Remediation, and Monitoring workgroup, and was later elected as co-chair of the CAG. He first became aware of Ambler's asbestos problems when a high-rise development was proposed. Surprised that BoRit was not remediated at the same time as Ambler's asbestos piles, he talks about EPA's monitoring and testing procedures. Chase acknowledges a tension between private and public interests as represented by the differing opinions among members of the CAG, but he regards Ambler's reticence to confront its asbestos as a "malaise" reflecting a general "malaise" in much of the United States on issues ranging from liquor sales to power lines to derelict buildings to infrastructure repairs. Chase hopes for open green space for BoRit. He says people who live near highways are often more at risk from pollution than from contained asbestos. He feels that communication between the CAG and EPA is generally good; EPA gives the CAG weekly reports of what they have done and informs them of what they propose to do. Chase wishes Ambler would agree to have its water tested for a number of chemicals that have turned up nearby, but the Borough feels this unnecessary. Chase has a positive view of Ambler in that its citizens fight hard for what they want; but acknowledges that private interests can sometimes conflict with the public good. Ambler's main challenge now is to change from a manufacturing town to a service or bedroom/commuter town. Chase believes that asbestos is now a problem of industrial blight as well as a health hazard. Chase has found some government agencies better than others, but acknowledges that they all have limitations and requirements prescribed by law.

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