Unsung Hero: Andy Bertocci of Yarmouth, the Baykeeper's prize catch
YARMOUTH — Andy Bertocci has spent the better part of one or two Saturdays a month from April through October for the past 20 years helping monitor the quality of water in the Casco Bay.
“Andy is amazing,” Casco Baykeeper Joe Payne said. “He works hard at everything he does; he has a talent for improving things – ideas, process, programs. And he’s a genuinely nice person.“
That’s high praise coming from the visionary who launched the award-winning, Environmental Protection Agency-certified volunteer water quality-monitoring program that has made Casco Bay one of the most thoroughly documented water bodies in the world. Payne co-founded Waterkeeper Alliance with six other waterkeepers in 1999, and today there are 200 on six continents.
Bertocci is a man with many skills who has followed a career path with many twists and turns. He has been as a firefighter, EMT and assistant chief for the Bath Fire Department; managed the harvest and processing of seaweeds for micronutrient and pharmaceutical markets; consulted in marine algae harvest and processing; worked as an electrician and mechanic at the Royal River Boatyard, and served as a manager for product support at a Brunswick-based firm that has developed vehicle-mounted electrical generators.
A chat with him suggests that the word “chutzpah” might be added to the list of adjectives that describe him.
“I was running my own consulting firm in the mid-1990s – Algaetech Seaweed Solutions – and someone called to ask if I could design a website. After saying ‘Yes,’ I rushed out and bought the book ‘HTML for Dummies’ so I could learn how to do it,” Bertocci said.
That project was successful, and he ultimately designed a website called "Gateway to the Seaweed,” which attracted visitors from around the world. During that time, he also made several presentations to school groups and the wider community on issues surrounding marine algae.
“I participated in the establishment of one of the first EPA-certified water-monitoring programs in the country in 1992,” Bertocci noted with pride. He went on to explain that it’s important to compile baseline data covering all parts of the bay to know when and where to take remedial action.
Since that time, he’s been an invaluable asset to Friends of Casco Bay, primarily as a volunteer, but sometimes in a paid role. In addition to monitoring water quality, Bertocci has trained and tested volunteers in classroom and field environments and managed a vessel pump-out program.
Today, dozens of volunteers trained in EPA-approved techniques collect samples in 30 sites around Casco Bay.
Bertocci has also instilled a love for the bay and an ethos of service in his daughter Maggie, now a student at North Yarmouth Academy. She accompanied her dad on his water-quality monitoring excursions for five years, beginning at age 6, and became skilled at both collecting and testing water samples.
“We all have a basic responsibility to do public service; that’s been a constant in my life” Bertocci said. “I feel good about contributing to the health of the bay.”
Peter Milholland, volunteer coordinator for Friends of Casco Bay, feels good about Bertocci’s contributions. “Andy is very knowledgeable and very precise," Milholland said. "He’s been an invaluable asset for our program.”
Payne emphasized the importance of a coordinated approach to protecting the health of the bay.
“Friends of Casco Bay has become the model for a less confrontational, ‘work-with’ approach, made possible by the shared environmental values of those who live, work, and play along Casco Bay,” he said.
Bertocci has become a model citizen steward in this coordinated effort. “Andy is a shining example of the big difference one person can make," Payne said.