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Oral history interview with James Feeney

  • 2014-Mar-07

James Feeney grew up in Philadelphia and earned degrees in chemical engineering and biological sciences. He became a remedial project manager for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Ambler asbestos piles became one of first projects. Familiarizing himself with the project, his job was to approve the design specifications of the remedies and oversee their implementation. The treatment was capping, or covering the pile with a thick layer of dirt and vegetation and then adding a covering to protect against erosion and gabion barriers or revetments alongside waterways. Feeney details the operation and maintenance procedures entailed, explaining that EPA will monitor the sites forever. The piles cannot be removed, but they are safe and continue to be monitored by the EPA. Every five years there is a review of the annual inspections and the review is published. Feeney says that asbestos is a unique challenge because it is not degradable; its control has different and specific regulations. He thinks that people's attitudes toward the EPA have changed since he first began. Feeney strongly emphasizes that the asbestos proportion of the waste is low, that the piles are finished and safe.

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