The following post is a response from James Sher, P.E., a project manager for the TCEQ Office of Compliance and Enforcement, to an email, addressed to John Flores, who is TCEQ’s Community Relations Liaison, from El Paso resident, Peggy McNiel.
The cost estimate you refer to in your email is not a final remediation plan for the site but simply a cost estimate that enabled the state to receive funds for cleanup through the bankruptcy process. The trustee, in coordination with TCEQ, has the flexibility to explore other remedial options that make sense for the cleanup and redevelopment of the site. Both the trustee and the TCEQ are interested in soliciting public input concerning the future use of the property, including what structures might remain standing. However, considerations regarding health, safety, future usage and any long-term maintenance costs will be paramount in any decisions regarding the stack and other structures. The trustee has recently hired an environmental consulting firm that will assist in the detailed technical evaluation of such issues. Thank you for sharing your opinion on this matter and we hope you continue to remain involved with site issues as we move forward.
Please do not hesitate to contact us should you ave any questions or need additional information.
James Sher, P.E.
Office of Compliance and Enforcement
Below is Peggy McNiel’s email.
Mr. John Flores:
Thank you for returning my call and responding to my inquiry.
I attended a meeting held by Mr. Robert Puga in early March regarding the remediation of the ASARCO site in El Paso.
At this meeting it became apparent that demolition of the smokestacks were up for discussion. I asked why since the ASARCO cost estimate dated June, 2008 which I found on the TCEQ website lists Demolition of Structures including the stacks as the 1st item.
He responded that there are some “stakeholders” in El Paso who do not want the stacks demolished.
I also sent him an e-mail after the meeting in which one of the requests was to identify the identity of the “stakeholders”. He responded that he had heard from several elected officials that they would like to consider leaving the stacks up. He identified Mayor John Cook as one who had been quoted in the paper as supporting that the stacks remain up.
I reminded him in the e-mail that only one person at the meeting was for the stacks remaining. The audience was the Sierra Club of which I’m not a member but I attended the meeting to hear the presentation.
I attended a meeting with Puga yesterday with our local council representative. One gentleman attending the meeting was quite articulate in voicing the question:
” If the TCEQ has already designated the tasks to be performed including demolishing the stacks in order to remediate the site, why do you have the power to override a state agency. Why do we citizens have to fight to uphold a decision that has been made by the environmental agency overseeing the remediation?”
I don’t know who the man was, but he has asked the question many of us are asking, Why is the issue of demolishing or not demolishing the stacks even presented as an option to the community to be debated? To me what should be presented are the steps that will be taken to remediate. Also, I read at a UTEP meeting students were asked what they wanted on the site before they were informed that the site was being remediated for only an industrial/commercial use per the TCEQ rules. I suggested to Mr. Puga that he may want to inform groups what the restrictions are for the site once remediated. He did do this yesterday.
There have got to be tons of toxic waste in those stacks. I refer to them as toxic towers. To demolish or not to demolish should not be up for discussion.
Some of the arguments I have heard from different people are:
- Should be preserved for historical reasons—I say we have a brand new history museum where a display can be developed to note the history of ASARCO. We don’t need the stacks to do this.
- They are part of the skyline. I can’t even respond to this as I think they are an eyesore.
- Some people think the stacks have proof that illegal chemicals were burned and they want the toxins analyzed in the stacks.
- Others have warm feelings for the stacks since their relatives worked there.
I respond to all these arguments that this is a public health issue. If the structures are left standing but for some reason in the future become fractured, there won’t be the money to demolish them. The response is that nothing will cause the stacks to become unstable.
Thanks for your attention to this matter.