QUESTIONS TO THE TRUSTEE

View Frequently Asked Questions.

  • FACT SHEET – Recent Supplemental Remedial Investigation (RI) Findings in the Area near the Calavera Canyon Neighborhood, January 15, 2014

    Click here to view the fact sheet.

  • Preliminary Chemical Analysis of Dust Monitors Now Available

    26 APR 2013

    The laboratory analysis and data evaluation from dust examples collected during the ASARCO stack demolition event are now available.

    The results of the data evaluation show that dust mitigation measures taken on April 13, 2013 during the stack demolition event were effective in preventing health concerns.

    This data is currently being reviewed by TCEQ and EPA.

  • Email from Jackson Polk to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga, and Demolition Task Leader, Bob Klotzback

    Email Subject Heading: April 13, 2013 TV access

    April 18, 2013

    Roberto Puga
    Project Navigator

    Bob Klotzback
    Environmental Resources Management

    Gentlemen:

    I want to express my thanks to you both for the television access we were allowed at the former Asarco smelter to video document the stack drop event on April 13, 2013 in El Paso, Texas. Our on-site cameras were sent live to El Paso Channel 7 KVIA-TV and we also recorded them for the TV documentary we have been filming called “Last Tour of the El Paso Smelter.” You are both on the list for a DVD.

    You guys made this stack event look routine. It is great to work with professionals. And I also thank you for your trust in my work, and your faith in our purpose.

    I regret the flack Roberto has caught from some El Pasoans. Many people appreciate your dedication to preserving the history of the site that is possible to save. You gave El Paso people ample time to ‘save th stacks’ or ‘save the powerhouse.’ And you have allowed us to save it all on TV recordings.

    Thanks.

    Jackson Polk
    Executive Producer
    Capstone Productions
    www.ephistory.com

  • Preliminary Dust Monitoring Data is Now Available

    18 APR 2013

    The preliminary results from the dust monitoring network, for the former ASARCO Smelter site stacks demolition, is now available at www.RecastingtheSmelter.com. The data indicates that the dust controls were effective.

    Haga clic aquí para ver la versión en español

  • Email from Lisa McNiel to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

    Email Subject Heading: Great job!

    Dear Mr. Puga,

    You are doing an outstanding job. You were between a rock and a hard place regarding the issue of stacks up or stacks down. No matter your decision, someone was going to be angry.

    I applaud your amazing efforts to maintain safety and to negotiate a very difficult situation. You have remained professional throughout and kept your cool despite irrational, unprofessional, untrue, and disrespectful remarks aimed at your character. (I believe that I may have made some impulsive remarks in an earlier email back in December and once again, apologize for my own emotionalism.) You have been as objective and as fair as possible given the circumstances. Thank you for your careful management of the site and your continued efforts to clean up the contamination as much as is humanly and financially possible at this time.

    Don’t let the critics get you down. Onward!

    Thank you again,

    Lisa McNiel

  • Questions Regarding Dust Monitoring during Stack Demolition

    13 APR 2013

    During today’s stack demolition, the Trust used an array of 16 dust monitoring locations. The data from the dust monitors is being downloaded and evaluated, and will be available to regulatory agencies and the public via this website approximately next week.

  • Email from Malcolm Mitchell to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

    Email Subject Heading: This morning’s events

    Yea! Hooray! Congratulations to all of us and a big thank-you to Mr. Robert Puga for never flinching in the face of strong opposition.

    Mal

  • Email from Marci Turner to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

    Email Subject Heading: Congratulations!

    To Mr. Puga and all who worked on this project – - CONGRATULATIONS on a job well done!!! It was spectacular – timing was perfect – great work! Thank you!!! Marci Turner

  • Email from Vivian Banta to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

    Email Subject Heading: Congratulations

    Hi Mr. Puga:

    Just wanted to say congratulations on a successful day. I know that your work is far from over but I hope that you will at least be able to get some rest now that this major milestone is safely behind you.

    Well done!

    Vivian Banta

  • Email from Peggy McNiel to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

    Email Subject Heading: Demolition at Dawn

    On behalf of all of us, I would like to wish you and your team a safe, successful demolition.

    Peggy McNiel and the group

  • Response to Questions Received Regarding Asbestos in the ASARCO Stacks

    11 APR 2013

    The Trust has posted information in response to questions received regarding asbestos in the ASACRO stacks. Please click here.

  • Email from Lisa Ann Schoenbrun to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

    Email Subject Heading: Thank you for responding

    My daughter has severe asthma and lung issues. I am concerned about the amount of dust and other toxin that are going to be released into the air at the time of the demolition. What is the projection for the dust and toxins being released into the air? How long until the dust is predicted to settle and what toxins are we expecting to be released into the atmosphere? We live on the westside of town near Coronado High School for a reference point.


    Have a Wonderful Day!

    Lisa Ann Schoenbrun

    Response from Roberto Puga:

    Dear Ms. Schoenbrun,

    Thanks for contacting us with your concerns. I address your questions and concerns below, but please do not hesitate to contact me again if you have more questions or need more clarification.

    We have collected samples from the two stacks, and had them analyzed for metals, volatile organic compounds and semi-volatile organic compounds. Based on the results of the sampling and analysis, metals were detected in the concrete samples from the stack, which is expected given that concrete is composed of many materials containing metal (gravel, sand, cement, steel reinforcement). Based on results from air-dispersion modeling, these measured metals concentrations will not cause exceedances of standards for metals in air at the property boundary during stack demolition. Very low concentrations of a few VOCs and SVOCs constituents were also detected or reported at estimated concentrations and do not pose a risk during demolition. You can see the analysis results, and get more detailed information about the sampling, at this page of our website. The webpage also has information about the extensive dust control measures that we are using during the demolition.

    From your e-mail I note that your home is about 3.5 miles from the stacks’ fall zone. It is very, very unlikely that there will be any dust impact at such a distance from the site. All of our efforts are aimed to keeping the dust within the boundaries of the site. It is expected that the dust will settle back to the ground within minutes of the demolition.

    But because your daughter is very sensitive to dust, you may want to consider some the dust awareness suggestions we post on this page of our website: http://www.recastingthesmelter.com/?p=3378

    Again, thanks for reaching out to us.

    Regards,

    Roberto Puga, P.G.

  • Email from Professor Luis B. Villalobos to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

    Email Subject Heading: Weight of Stacks

    Mr. Roberto Puga : Dear mr.Puga. Estimado senor Puga : Seria usted tan amable en contestarme lo que nadie en El Paso me ha podido contestar, ni los canales de t.v. noticias, ni Estela Casas de KVIA TV,channel 4, news channel 9 ni el canal 26. CUANTO PESA CADA TORRE ( APROXIMADAMENTE ) . I hope that you can please help me so yours truly can inform the people / listeners on the radio in Ciudad Juarez 860 A.M. asap please !!!! Thanking you in advance I remain waiting. Professor Luis B. Villalobos.

    Response from Roberto Puga:

    Dear Professor Villalobos,

    The weight of the 828-foot stacks (this is the weight of both the inner and outer stacks) is approximately 24,000 tons. The weight of the 610-foort stack (this is a single stack) is approximately 7,000 tons.

    I’ve attached a summary of information about the stacks. This information is also posted on our website here.

    Regards,

    Roberto Puga, P.G.

  • ASARCO Final Chimney Demolition Plan is Now Available

    05 APR 2013

    The Final Chimney Demolition Plan, for the event scheduled for April 13, 2013, is now available for download from www.RecastingtheSmelter.com. The plan includes comments from TCEQ and EPA.

  • Letter from Andrea Tirres to Good Neighbor Environmental Board (GNEB)

    I am writing to ask if the GNEB can help draw attention to the concerns that I share with others regarding a proposed demolition of an 828ft smokestack built in 1967 by the now bankrupt American Smelting and Refining Co. (ASARCO) that sits within 1000ft from the Rio Grande and the international boundary of El Paso, TX and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

    To give you some historical background, between 1969 and 1971 Asarco had emitted 1,012 metric tons of lead, 520 tons of zinc, 1.2 tons of arsenic, 12 tons of cadmium, and 230,500 tons of sulfur dioxide a year, or 640 tons a day. In 2006, the New York Times reported that Asarco secretly burned hazardous waste in a sham recycling scheme at the El Paso copper smelter. A 2007 United States Government Accountability (GAO) report confirmed the same. From 1991 to 1998, the Asarco El Paso smelter illegally received and incinerated hazardous waste from United States Department of Defense weapons facilities in Utah and Colorado. Shipments of this waste passed through Asarco subsidiary Encycle in Corpus Christi, where hazardous waste labels were removed and other slag content was added before being shipped to El Paso. These documented violations resulted in a $50 million fine from the US Department of Justice.

    After years of extraordinary environmental violations, fines, and debts, ASARCO declared bankruptcy in 2005 (see CNN story, particularly starting at 9:10 time — http://vimeo.com/5354253 The bankruptcy court required that $52 million be placed into an account to fund the remediation of the site. Under the settlement agreement, ASARCO’s El Paso smelter property was placed in an environmental custodial trust and managed by a custodial trustee selected by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The TCEQ selected Project Navigator, represented by Roberto Puga, as the custodial trustee to manage the remedial activities at the ASARCO-El Paso site. Mr. Puga is a licensed geologist from California, but not licensed in Texas.

    We have numerous concerns, but as I am aware that you have other pressing matters to tend to, I will just mention some of the most pervasive aspects including the lack of transparency, outreach, and technical flaws that do not provide assurance of the short and long-term environmental or health impacts due to this demolition:

    1. It doesn’t appear that any of the documents have been translated into Spanish or made available beyond the internet. This would fall in the category of Environmental Injustice. People who live in the extremely poor communities in Juarez live approximately 2000 ft from the smokestacks. Residents who live in the extremely poor community of Calavera in El Paso also live within a couple thousand feet from the smokestack. The residents of Juarez, in particular, are being kept in the dark with regards to the demolition activities and those US residents who may be aware of the planned demolition are limited in understanding the activities because Spanish is their only (or dominant) language.
    2. There are major concerns for contaminants that have not been tested that could be present in the walls of the smokestack and that may become airborne upon demolition. For example:
      • According to EPA documents, hazardous waste was illegally burned in this smokestack for nearly a decade. In 1998, the EPA submits a memo (which condemns ASARCO’s illegal burning of hazardous waste in their El Paso plant. The memorandum states, “ this activity, plain and simple, was illegal treatment and disposal of hazardous wastes…”. Hazardous wastes included heavy metals such as but not limited to Arsenic, Chromium, Lead, Contatrichlorobenzene, hexachlorophenols, and pentachlorophenols.
      • Analysis of contaminants analyzed in the flue was 3ft long core samples at heights of 10 ft, 50 ft, and 100 ft high, which would mislead concentrations by diluting it, whereas most of the contaminants would be within a few inches from the surface and at a lower elevation. This does not adhere to best Engineering Practices and probably does not adhere to an established protocol.
    3. According to sampling plans, core samples of the stack were sampled for RCRA Metals plus COCs and Analyses of Interest (AOIs) but none for PCBs or Dioxins.

      Dioxins were not tested for in spite of the fact that evidence, such as EPA’s Dioxin inventory, indicates that metallurgical processes such as ferrous metal (e.g., copper and lead) produce dioxin-like emissions. PCB’s were not tested in spite of the fact that PCBs were commonly used as Dielectric fluids and transformers in primary and secondary metals smelting and refining, etc. for various applications until 1979 when the U.S. banned PCB manufacturing.

    4. Asbestos was not sampled in spite of the evidence that should have directed the consultants to test asbestos. Virtually all mortar, brick, and cinder block buildings constructed prior to the mid-1980s may contain asbestos. In addition, according to “comprehensive asbestos”survey of the ASARCO site made in 2010 by ANE Consulting, Inc., asbestos was found in most of the buildings surrounding the smokestack. What is more, this report stated that according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, the demolition contractor shall be notified if asbestos is suspected and the work must be stopped and the suspected material should be tested for asbestos. Asbestos was a substance the trustee failed to look for despite this report.
    5. The small stack stands at 612’ high and is approximately less than 600’ ft away from the international border. The large stack stands at 828’ ft high and is approximately just under 100’ ft away from the international border. Plans are to bury the stack underneath the ground and within 500 ft. of the Rio Grande River, a primary aquifer source. No Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or Environmental Assessment (EA) has been done for this.

    How can this be allowed? In email exchanges with a community member, the EPA states that the remediation efforts occurring here are neither a State nor Federal action but they don’t state what type of action is occurring.

    There are a significant number of people who are poor and who live in poverty. Historically, El Paso doesn’t carry the same political clout as regions in other areas of the state or nation. Furthermore, many of the people in this region have humble educations. The overwhelming majority of the people in this are Hispanic. This is a case of environmental injustice on a variety of levels. We are not aware of any PSAs regarding the scheduled demolition, no copies of the Draft Demolition Plan (released on March 21, 2013) are available in the library for people who don’t have access to the internet, no mention of an open comment period for the public on the Draft Demolition Plan, and no information that is available in Spanish on the Trust’s website, although thousands of residents living less than one mile from the stack speak no English.

    What is equally incredulous is the lack of outreach to Mexico on the part of the Trustee.
    At a community meeting held on February 26th, 2013, the Trustee was asked if he had done any outreach to Mexico. He responded that he hadn’t because he didn’t have the authority. This was the same response he gave to a community member when the same question was asked two and a half years prior. In a presentation to El Paso City Council on March 26th, 2013, the Trustee responded that he was doing outreach to Mexico. In a span of a month, the Trustee is now doing outreach and now possesses the authority to do so? What entities and community members, exactly, have been contacted? Please see this link for a perspective from Mexico:

    http://860noticias.com.mx/new/ciudad-juarez/politica/2069-danos-generados-por-asarco-son-irreversibles-senala-diputado

    The process that has been adopted to get to the point that we are at today – demolition of the two stacks – was done without full scientific assessment given the history of the stacks, without scrutiny for possible conflicts of interests on the part of the Trustee and firms that have been contracted, and without proper community outreach and participation on both sides of the border.

    We need help now. What can you do to help us stop this demolition and do a thorough study before this turns into a major environmental and health disaster for generations to come?
    Thank you for your attention to this matter.

    Respectfully,

    Andrea Tirres

    Click here to download this letter

  • Email from Wayne Daniel to Representative Niland, with Response from Site Trustee Roberto Puga

    Roberto Puga’s response is bolded.

    Email Subject Heading: Question about ASARCO demolition

    Dear Representative Niland:

    I found out (by checking www.maps.yahoo.com) that it’s 3.17 miles or 3.2 miles (they gave me two conflicting figures) from my place (Wallington Plaza Apartments, 200 Wallington Drive) to the ASARCO site (2301 W. Paisano). That’s if I follow the streets. When the stacks are knocked down (April 26), the pollution will follow a more direct route to my place.

    Is it safe for those of us who live near ASARCO to stay in our homes that weekend? Someplace I read that somebody is arranging for residents of the area to stay in hotels that weekend. Do you have information on that, which you may wish to share with our apartment manager (533-6103)? (If not, I can make some other arrangement.)

    Thank you very much.

    Wayne Daniel

    Response from Roberto Puga:

    Dear Mr. Daniel,

    Thanks for reaching out to Representative Niland and the Trust with your question.

    At the distance your apartment is to the site, you should not experience any adverse effects from the demolition of the ASARCO stacks. You are more than sufficiently far away to not have vibration or dust issues. I’ve included below information about the demolition process, dust mitigation measures and vibration monitoring.

    Please do not hesitate to send us any other questions or comments.

    Regards,

    Roberto Puga
    Trustee

    Attached link: Dust and Vibration Public Awareness Information

    Response from Wayne Daniel:

    To Roberto Puga:

    Thank you, Mr. Puga, for your response to my question. Thanks also for assuring me that, living three miles from ASARCO, I am in no danger.

    But my concern is somewhat broader than that. What are the potential dangers for neighbors who live closer to ASARCO than three miles? I appreciate the instruction to turn off air-conditioners, close windows, etc., to keep dust from getting into the house. Maybe those instructions should be more widely distributed, in Spanish and English, to make sure all persons concerned (including those who don’t have Internet access) have a chance to read them.

    ALSO, a lot of people are concerned that this “dust” from ASARCO is not just dust. It’s believed that it contains poisons of various kinds. People may need some reassurance along that line.

    Thank you again.

    Best wishes,
    Wayne Daniel

    Response from Roberto Puga:

    Hello Mr. Daniel,

    Thanks for contacting us with your concerns. I appreciate the input, because it helps us improve our outreach efforts to the community. I address your questions and concerns below, but please do not hesitate to contact me again if you have more questions or need more clarification.

    We have collected samples from the two stacks, and had them analyzed for metals, volatile organic compounds and semi-volatile organic compounds. Based on the results of the sampling and analysis, metals were detected in the concrete samples from the stack, which is expected given that concrete is composed of many materials containing metal (gravel, sand, cement, steel reinforcement). Based on results from air-dispersion modeling, these measured metals concentrations will not cause exceedances of standards for metals in air at the property boundary during stack demolition. Very low concentrations of a few VOCs and SVOCs constituents were also detected or reported at estimated concentrations and do not pose a risk during demolition. You can see the analysis results, and get more detailed information about the sampling, at our website. The webpage also has information about the extensive dust control measure that we are using during the demolition.

    The instructions, and other information, have been posted on our website and given to the media. The information is posted in both English and Spanish. During the week of the event we will be having a press conference at the site to once again inform the El Paso and Juarez media about the event, dust controls and the dust/vibration awareness information. We will also post a notice in the El Paso Times the week of the event.

    Again, thanks for reaching out to us.

    Regards,
    Roberto Puga, P.G.

  • Dust and Vibration Public Awareness Information

    Dust and Vibration Public Awareness for the Former ASARCO Smelter Chimney Demolition Event

    Texas Custodial Trust, Brandenburg Industrial Service Company (General Demolition Contractor), and Dykon (Explosive Demolition Subcontractor) would like you to be aware that on Saturday, the 13th of April 2013 near sunrise (approximately 6:30 a.m. – 7:00 a.m.), two chimneys at the Former Asarco Smelter Facility will be demolished with explosives.

    Explosive demolition is a process where a small amount of explosives is used to remove a portion of the chimney structure allowing it to fall like a tree. The Blaster has used this explosive demolition method to fell more than 100 chimneys during his more than 40 years of experience in the explosive demolition industry.

    Click on the image below to see full figure.

    Dust is a byproduct of all types of demolition. With explosive demolition, dust will be released over several seconds, but may, depending on weather conditions, linger in the general site area for 10 to 15 minutes. While we do not anticipate significant amounts of dust to leave the site due to extensive dust suppression efforts, we do offer some general guidelines to reduce the potential for dust to enter your home or business regardless of the dust generation activity (natural or man-made).

    • Close windows, doors, and any other openings that might allow dust to enter your apartment, condominium, house, business or building.
    • Turn off exhaust fans, air conditions, and heaters when you anticipate dust being generated and for a period of about 30 minutes thereafter, as exhaust fans might draw air into your building through cracks in walls, doors and windows.
    • If you find dust uncomfortable or irritating, or if you have any respiratory conditions that would be aggravated by dust, it is advisable to stay indoors for 15 – 30 minutes after the demolition.

    Click on the images below to see full figure.

    • Chimney Demolition Cushioning Layer
    • Chimney Demolition Earthen Berms
    • Chimney Demolition Water Mist System

    An independent third party vibration monitoring consultant will place seismographs on- and off-site to measure the vibrations generated during the demolition. Historic data demonstrates that the vibrations generated during this event will be well below levels that could cause structural damage to buildings on- or off-site. The vibration levels are anticipated to be below even the threshold levels for cosmetic damage (flaking of paint in a pre-existing crack). You may, however, be able to “feel” the vibrations from the demolition depending on your proximity to the chimneys at the time of demolition. In addition to the demolition event itself, a few days prior to the demolition, a test blast will be performed on site. Depending on your location, this may sound like loud thunder or fireworks.

    A dust monitoring system will be used to determine that harmful amounts of dust have not been released.

    Click on the image below to see full figure.

    The best place to view the chimney demolition is in the comfort of your home on television.

    Should you have any questions, please direct them to Roberto Puga, Trustee, via the website www.recastingthesmelter.com or directly at rpuga@projectnavigator.com.

  • Información de sensibilización de polvo y vibraciones

    Sensibilización polvo y vibraciones para el evento de demolición de las chimenes de ASARCO

    El Texas Custodial Trust, Brandenburg Industrial Service Company (contratista de demolición) y Dykon (subcontratista de explosivos) quisiera que tenga en cuenta que en sábado, 13 de Abril de 2013 en la madrugada (aproximadamente 6:30AM – 7:00AM), dos chimeneas en la antigua instalación de fundición Asarco serán demolidas con explosivos.

    Demolición explosiva es un proceso donde se utiliza una pequeña cantidad de explosivos para remover una porción de la base de la chimenea dejándola caer como un árbol. El subcontratista de explosivos ha utilizado este método de demolición más de 100 veces durante sus más de 40 años de experiencia en la industria de explosivos de demolición.

    Haga clic en la imagen para ver la figura completa.

    Polvo es un subproducto de todo tipo de demolición. Con la demolición explosiva, polvo saldrá durante varios segundos, pero puede, dependiendo de condiciones climáticas, persistir en la área general del sitio por 10 a 15 minutos. No esperamos cantidades significativas de polvo dejar el sitio debido a extenso esfuerzos de supresión de polvo. Si sigue preocupación se puede tomar las siguientes sacciones:

    • Cierre las ventanas, puertas y cualquier otra abertura que permita la entrada de polvo en su apartamento, condominio, casa, negocio o edificio.
    • Apagar ventiladores, aire acondicionadores y calentadores cuando usted anticipe el polvo que se genera y por un período de aproximadamente 30 minutos después de eso.
    • Si encuentra polvo molesto o irritante, o si tiene alguna condición respiratoria que se agravan por el polvo, es aconsejable que permanezca en el interior durante 15 – 30 minutos después de la demolición.

    Haga clic en las imágenes para ver la figura completa.

    • Chimney Demolition Cushioning Layer
    • Chimney Demolition Earthen Berms
    • Chimney Demolition Water Mist System

    Un consultor independiente de monitoreo de vibración colocará sismógrafos site para medir las vibraciones generadas durante la demolición. Datos históricos demuestran que las vibraciones generadas durante este tipo de evento estarán debajo de los niveles que podrían causar daños estructurales a edificios. Los niveles de vibración se anticipa ser debajo incluso los niveles que causan daños estéticos. Sin embargo, uno puede ser capaz de “sentir” las vibraciones de la demolición dependiendo de su proximidad a las chimeneas en el momento de la demolición. Además del evento de demolición, unos días antes, una explosión de prueba se realizará en el sitio. Dependiendo de su ubicación, esto puede sonar como un fuerte trueno o fuegos artificiales.

    Se utilizará un sistema de monitoreo de polvo para determinar que cantidades perjudiciales de polvo no han sido liberados.

    Haga clic en la imagen para ver la figura completa.

    El mejor lugar para ver la demolición de las chimeneas es en la comodidad de su hogar en la televisión.

    Si usted tiene alguna pregunta, por favor diríjase a Roberto Puga, fideicomisario, vía el sitio web www.recastingthesmelter.com o directamente ha rpuga@projectnavigator.com.

  • Response to Questions on the Stack Demolition

    21 MAR 2013

    We have received questions regarding the demolition event from some of El Paso’s elected officials and we have posted responses to the questions on the Frequently Asked Questions (Haga clic aquí para la Preguntas Hechas Frecuentes en Español) section of this website.

  • Draft Demolition Plan Available

    20 MAR 2013

    The current Draft Chimney Demolition Plan is available for review. This plan has been submitted to TCEQ, U.S. EPA, the City of El Paso and IBWC. Departments of the City include the Police Department, Fire Department and Emergency Services.

    Please post any comments on the blog section (Questions to the Trustee page) of this website.

    The stack demolition is scheduled for the morning of April 13, 2013.

  • References

    Albright, W. H. and Benson, C. H. (2005). Alternative Cover Assessment Program (ACAP)
    Report to Office of Research and Development, National Risk Management Research
    Lab, Land Remediation and Pollution Control Division.
    http://www.dri.edu/images/stories/research/programs/acap/acap-publications/dri-acapphase2-
    field-monitoring.pdf

    EPA CLU-IN. U.S. EPA Contaminated Site Cleanup Information (CLU-IN),
    http://cluin.org/products/altcovers

    EPA OSWER 2011. U.S. EPA Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, Fact Sheet on
    Evapotranspiration Cover Systems for Waste Containment, EPA 542-F-11-001, February
    2011. http://www.epa.gov/tio/download/remed/epa542f11001.pdf

    EPA Region 5 2000. Waste, Pesticides, and Toxics Division. Use of Institutional Controls in the
    RCRA Corrective Action Program. 2000.
    http://epa.gov/region05/waste/cars/pdfs/r5-institutional-controls-guidance-200003.pdf

    EPA Region 9 2010. Fourth Five-Year Review Report for Operating Industries, Inc. Landfill
    Superfund Site, Monterey Park, Los Angeles County, California. 2010.
    http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/fiveyear/f2010090003654.pdf

    ITRC 2003. Alternative Landfill Technologies Team. Technical and Regulatory Guidance for
    Design, Installation, and Monitoring of Alternative Final Landfill Covers. Interstate
    Technology and Regulatory Council December 2003.
    http://www.itrcweb.org/Documents/ALT-2ExecSum.pdf

    Levitt, D. G., Harmann, M. J., Kisiel, K. C., Criswell, C. W., Farley, P. D., and Christensen, C.
    (2005). Comparison of the water balance of an asphalt cover and an evapotranspiration
    cover at technical area 49 at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Vadose Zone Journal,
    4, 789-797. https://www.soils.org/publications/vzj/abstracts/4/3/0789
    Ward, A. L. and Gee, G. W. (1997). Performance evaluation of a field-scale surface barrier,
    Journal of Environmental Quality, 26, 694-705.
    https://www.crops.org/publications/jeq/abstracts/26/3/JEQ0260030694?access=0&view=
    pdf

    Rowe, R. K. and Islam, M. Z. (2009). Impact of Landfill Liner Time–Temperature History on the Service Life of HDPE Geomembranes, Waste Management, Vol. 29, No. 10, PP 2689-2699. http://www.civil.queensu.ca/Research/Environmental/R-Kerry-Rowe/publications/documents/2009%20Rowe,%20Rimal%20and%20Sangam%20GnG%2027(2)137-151.pdf

    Rowe, R. K., Rimal, S., and Sangam, H. (2009). Ageing of HDPE Geomembrane Exposed to Air, Water, and Leachate at Different Temperatures, Geotextiles and Geomembranes, Vol. 27, No. 2, pp. 137-151. http://www.civil.queensu.ca/Research/Environmental/R-Kerry-Rowe/publications/documents/2009%20Rowe,%20Rimal%20and%20Sangam%20GnG%2027(2)137-151.pdf

  • Email from Karl Putnam to Chairman Shaw and Commissioners Rubinstein and Baker

    Email Subject Heading: El Paso Politicians Asarco Stacks Demolition Delay Request

    Dear Chairman Shaw and Commissioners Rubinstein and Baker,

    Thank you for selecting Roberto Puga and his firm to remediate the El Paso Asarco site. He has done a fine job. Please continue as you have to let him do his work and do not take any action to delay the demolition of the two smokestacks on the site scheduled for early April.

    Sincerely,

    Karl Putnam

  • Email from Peggy McNiel to Bryan W. Shaw, Ph.D Chairman TCEQ

    Email Subject Heading: El Paso Politicians Asarco Stacks Demolition Delay Request

    Mr. Bryan W. Shaw:

    I’m sending this letter to you and copying other associates of the TCEQ, including Mr. James Sher as well as the project EPA contact, Mr. Chuck Barnes and Mr. Roberto Puga, the trustee who is doing a fabulous job on the El Paso Asarco site remediation as well as dealing with our politicians and community.

    This is not only to inform you of our situation in El Paso but also to request on behalf of the majority of citizens of El Paso including our group–Stacks Down for Safety—that you not delay the planned and budgeted demolition of the Asarco smokestacks for any reason other than winds over 25 mph. Thankfully, according to Mr. Puga as quoted in the 3/8/13 “El Paso Times” article, the questions asked will not delay the April 13 demolition.

    Not one of the politicians listed in the El Paso Times article; U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, state Sen. Jose Rodriguez, state Rep. Marisa Marquez, County Judge Veronica Escobar (who when running for County Judge signed our petition to demolish the stacks) or city Rep. Susie Byrd attended the community meeting conducted by the trustee, Mr. Roberto Puga. If they had attended, their questions cited in the article would have been answered. In fact, as Mr. Puga stated, he and/or his team or the TCEQ has answered the questions listed many times.

    Unfortunately, these politicians are becoming the mouthpiece for Robert Ardovino, Sapp and others in their group. Sapp attended the last community meeting and was at the very least, harassing Mr. Puga and members of the demolition team. It is quite obvious that members of their group are the ones who have gone to the five politicians and raised questions regarding the remediation plan. The questions asked at the meeting were easily answered by Mr. Puga and the team.

    The article states that the politicians are asking whether or not risks associated with demolition have been adequately addressed. Again if they had attended the presentation, all risks were addressed. Since this letter has been instigated by the Ardovino and Sapp group, nothing that the TCEQ or the EPA would present will be accepted as “adequately addressing” the concerns because there are no “environmental concerns” of the Ardovino/Sapp group. Their objective is to block the demolition of the stacks. Clearly, to our group, the major environmental concern is to leave the two polluted stacks standing.

    I am quite grateful to the reporter, Marty Schladen of the El Paso Times for reporting that such a letter is being drafted and sent requesting a delay. It is quite revealing that the above politicians would sign a letter without attending the meeting which explained the demolition process and without doing any research into other Asarco sites where the same “demolish and bury” remediation process has been utilized without any mishaps years after implementation.

    I have requested yesterday for the second time that these same politicians respect the Dec. 4th, 2012 deadline and support the demolition process. Anyone in El Paso has had since 2009 to come forward with a financed plan to leave the Asarco stacks standing. Mr. Puga has extended the deadline twice to accommodate the most recent group led by Ardovino and Sapp. Last year our City Council voted “no” on a proposal to purchase the stacks or spend city funds on any project related to or including the stacks. Even if the stacks were given to the city, millions of taxpayer dollars would be needed to stabilize the stacks, maintain them annually and remediate them of contaminants. In poll after poll, the majority of El Pasoans have made it clear that they do not want their tax dollars to be allocated to maintaining the stacks.

    To reiterate, we support the demolition of both of the Asarco smokestacks, the continued remediation of the Asarco site and request that there be no delay unless due to natural winds above 25 mph not the bloated winds of our politicians.

    Thank you for your attention to this matter on behalf of our citizens’ group and on behalf of the majority of El Pasoans.

    Sincerely,

    Peggy McNiel of “Stacks Down for Safety”

    P.S. The members of the “Stacks Down for Safety” group with e-mails have been copied on this letter.

  • Email from Karen Chandler to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

    Email Subject Heading: Thank you from El Paso

    Mr. Puga,

    I am a citizen of El Paso, and on behalf of my family and many, many
    other families that I have spoken to, we would like to say thank you for
    the great work you and your team have done in cleaning up the ASARCO
    site and giving us something with future potential.

    I believe the people that are against your efforts are a very small, but
    unfortunately loud, minority. I hope you do not feel that they
    represent El Paso as a whole.

    El Paso has little in the way of natural beauty. Tearing down the
    polluted eyesore that is ASARCO is a huge step toward improving what we
    do have. Once again, many, MANY thanks from us for all of your work.
    We are looking forward to seeing those stacks come down in April!

    Sincerely,
    Karen Chandler
    El Paso

  • Email from Jim and Debbie Kelly to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

    Email Subject Heading: Thank you Mr. Puga

    Roberto – Just a quick note to reiterate my thanks to you for behaving throughout this entire process in a professional, competent, and honest fashion. I particularly appreciate that you lived up to your early commitment to conduct this project with maximum transparency and community engagement. No one can say that they did not have full opportunity to express their views on all the decisions you have made to date. I am glad that the stacks are coming down, but am pleased to know that that decision was made only after all other alternatives were given full consideration, and that the final decision is based on the facts on the ground and not special interests or politics. Thank you for a job well and carefully done. – Jim and Debbie Kelly

  • Email from Patricia Ortiz to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

    Email Subject Heading: Save the ASARCO Stacks!

    Please help us Save the Stacks. I grew up in El Paso and the stacks should be made monuments, not torn down. If given the opportunity, you would see that a majority of El Pasoans would be willing to Save the Stacks and improve that area. Hear us out, we want to preserve our history!

    Thank you,
    Patricia Ortiz

  • Email from Marcia Turner to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

    Email Subject Heading: Thank you!

    Mr. Puga – thank you for the meeting last night. I’m sorry you had to be subjected to the minority who want to save the stacks. Please know that the majority of this community respects what you have done, and are continuing to do, for our community. I was embarrassed by the outspoken people who were there – and proud of you for “standing tall” in the face of such adversity. You are a man of intellect and high principles. Thank you for taking care of this land, for looking at the “big picture”, and in spite of a few naysayers, and continuing to work diligently towards the ultimate goal.

    Sincerely,
    Marcia Turner

  • Email from Malcolm Mithcell to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

    Email Subject Heading: Your presentation

    Dear Mr. Puga:

    Once again I applaud your dedication, integrity and–perhaps most importantly in El Paso–tenacity in pursuing the demolition and remediation of the former Asarco site. I was unable to attend your latest presentation yesterday, but I have heard only laudatory things about it from all my friends who attended (I did not canvass the Save the Stacks group!). You and I both know that there are political machinations going on behind the scenes, but I trust that the demolition of the foul stacks will proceed on schedule on or about April 13 at dawn depending upon the winds.

    Best regards and thanks.

    Malcolm Mitchell

  • Email from Karl Putnam to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

    Email Subject Heading: Thank you Mr. Puga

    Hello Mr. Puga,

    Thanks much for all you’re doing to remediate the Asarco smelter site in El Paso. Know that the majority of El Pasoans appreciate your efforts and very significant accomplishments, including your decision to minimize Asarco site assets spent on keeping the stacks up in accordance with the trust document requirement to restore the site in the most economical and efficient manner.

    Sincerely,

    Karl Putnam

  • Community Meeting Scheduled for February 26, 2013

    Community Meeting Scheduled for February 26, 2013
    6:00pm – 7:00pm
    El Paso Downtown Public Library, Main Auditorium
    501 North Oregon Street, El Paso

    View press release

  • Message from Peggy McNiel to Senator Rodriguez

    Senator Rodriguez,

    I was astounded and dismayed that you are supporting taxpayer funds being allocated to preserve the Asarco smokestacks.

    This idea has already been presented to our city council and voted down.
    Taxpayers in the city of El Paso do not support funding the preservation of the Asarco smokestacks. Please do not take this outside the purview of the taxpaying voters who will have to pay for this if you succeed.

    What is surprising is that you are not fighting for additional funds to further clean-up the site–including demolition of the stacks–to make it more conducive to all types of development not just commercial—a worthy endeavor for an environmentally conscious individual.

    Some facts you may not be aware of:

    1)Remediation of the site has always included demolition of the smokestacks because of their danger to the public. To quote from the TCEQ’s engineer who authored the remediation plan. “The lack of routine maintenance will accelerate deterioration of the buildings and structures. The deterioration of the structures will pose a hazard to any unauthorized persons and, as is the case with the smokestacks and the bridge over I-10, will pose a direct hazard to the public.”

    This was written in 2009. It is 4 years later. Do you really want to champion funding of a “direct hazard to the public”.?

    2) The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club regards the smokestacks as “toxic waste” in their public comments to the Assistant Attorney General, Environmental and Natural Resources Division, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington D.C.

    Their public comments were written by one of their PHDs.

    3) The Asarco stacks in both Tacoma, Wash. and Omaha, Nebraska were both demolished as part of their remediation plans for their sites. I talked to the on site manager for Citizens for a healthy bay, Ms. Leslie Rose, in Tacoma, Wash. regarding their stack demolition. She practically jumped out of the phone to say, “Controlled demolition is safer than leaving the stacks up and not properly maintaining them.” She asks why would you want to leave the stacks as a liability for future generations. The Tacoma stacks were demolished according to their EPA directed remediation plan. She went on to say that if the stacks remain, someone is always responsible for costly maintenance. An uncontrolled, unplanned failure of the stacks could be catastrophic and end up killing people. Maybe, not now, but at some point, the stacks will have to be demolished.

    The Asarco trustee has hired independent experts who put the cost to stabilize the 826 ft stack at $6 million up front and $100,000 to $150,000 per year ad infinitum. Later Mr. Puga said further up front wind stabilization would be required at an additional cost of at least $4 million. This is to adequately preserve the stacks.

    The Save the Stacks group immediately rejected these costs of safety even before they had conducted a study. At the City Council meeting, their firm estimated the costs at $4 million over 50 years compared to the trustee’s study that the cost would be $14 million plus the wind retrofitting of $4 million plus over 50 years. Puga has rejected their proposal as not adequate. Puga is the man I trust backed by the TCEQ and the EPA not some locals without the proper training and experience to judge which study is valid. The Save the Stacks hired firm admitted in the council meeting that they did not consider the threat of wind to toppling the stacks. Yet the Save the Stacks group continues to say it will only require $4 million.

    4) Ms. Rose of Tacoma also offered that if the stacks had remained, no one would buy the property for development. This is the same objection reported by Puga in his initial attempt to find interested buyers.

    El Paso needs taxpaying entities. We don’t need a blighted site.

    5) There is nothing remarkable about these stacks other than the extent of their pollution and cost of preservation. There are 31 taller stacks in the U.S. The tallest one is 1217 ft. in Homer, Pa. Of the 31, 21 stacks are
    1000 ft. or taller. The Asarco stacks were not designed by Trost. They were built in 1966 in a standard manufacturing process.

    6) In a poll conducted by an independent research firm for the El Paso, Times, 80% of the polled were against stack preservation if the taxpayer would be required to fund it. The Save the Stacks group keeps referring to a poll where 70% are for stack preservation. They have never referenced the research firm who conducted the poll, the sample size and the reliability factor.

    7) Mr. Puga has given the public 2 years and extended deadlines twice to provide any group every opportunity to come up with the funding to safely preserve the stacks. The current group has not been able to come up with their own funding. So they embarked upon a scheme to offload the liability and cost to adequately and safely preserve the stacks onto the taxpayer.
    This was voted down in the El Paso City Council by a majority. Now this group is going to you Senator to extract funds from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. for preservation of polluted stacks. At a time when our state parks are underfunded, why would anyone wish to cut additional funds from our mountains, beaches and parks to fund these polluted stacks? Help me.

    I urge you to allow the original remediation plan to go forward and support the trustee, Mr. Puga, the TCEQ and the EPA to clean up the polluted site and demolish the polluted, dangerous smokestacks in the interests of the environment and the health and safety of the citizenry.

    These are my own opinions most of which are shared by a group of us who are against stacks preservation. We are now about 60 and counting. All of us do not want our taxes–local, state or federal allocated to preserving the polluted smokestacks.

    If you wish to meet with me and discuss this further, I would be happy to go over the extensive documents and references further.

    Thank you for your service,

    Peggy McNiel

  • Message from Malcolm S. Mitchell, M.D. to Senator Rodriguez

    Dear Senator Rodriguez:

    As someone who worked closely for several years with your predecessor, as part of the Get the Lead Out Group, to stop Asarco from reopening, I feel it necessary to contact you because of your apparent support for retaining the stacks. I have written to you and to the El Paso Times in the past to state my objections to the stacks, which, like many other objective people, I find to be ugly, polluted and utterly without redeeming features as a permanent part of El Paso’s landscape. I hope you will not bow to pressure from Robert Ardovino and others, who inexplicably to me and many others want to retain the stacks as some sort of “monument”. I came from another city to El Paso in 2007 and have traveled abroad, so I am baffled why some people believe that there are reasons not to destroy the crumbling, polluted Asarco stacks.

    The City Council has already voted against using public money to bolster them, and I hope you will not try to go against their decision. I especially hope that my tax money and that of others in the city (or state) will not be used for this purpose, when money is sorely needed for education, alleviation of poverty and improvement of health, all of which have merit, in contrast to the effort of propping up toxic stacks at considerable cost into the distant future.

    Mr. Puga has already made his decision to demolish and remove the stacks to remove the blight of Asarco from El Paso once and for all. I trust that you as our recently elected state senator will support the City Council and Mr. Puga and not try to reverse these actions.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    Sincerely,

    Malcolm S. Mitchell, M.D.
    Former head of medical oncology and director for clinical investigations at the University of Southern California Cancer Center, Los Angeles

  • Email exchange from Jim H. Tolbert to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

    Email Subject Heading: Asking for Permission

    Roberto Puga’s response is bolded.

    Mr. Puga,

    I have previously taken 2 or 3 tours of the Asarco site with officials from the City of El Paso and also with Charlie Wakeem of the Open Space Board. I am emailing you now as the publisher of elpasonaturally.

    May I take another tour of the site and bring a Geiger counter and take readings including near and around the large stack?

    Thanks for your attention to this request.

    Jim H. Tolbert


    Dear Mr. Tolbert,

    You are certainly welcome to visit the site again at your convenience. However, as a matter of policy, I cannot acquiesce to any third party conducting their own investigation on the former ASACRO site.

    You are welcome to review all of the data that has been collected at the site, plus our evaluations of the materials that came to the site, both legally and illegally. All of this information is available on our website – I’ll be happy to point you to any specific data you are interested in.

    Please let me know if you would like to come to the site, and I’ll arrange the visit.

    Best Regards,

    Roberto Puga

    Mr. Puga,

    Where can I find data on radioactivity readings throughout the site including the stacks?

    Jim H. Tolbert


    Dear Mr. Tolbert,

    Thank you for your interest to the remediation project for the former ASARCO Smelter Site in El Paso, Texas (the Site).

    The Asarco site has been extensively investigated and the results from the various site investigations may be found at the TCEQ website. These results are included in the attachments and appendices to the investigation reports. See the following website:

    http://www.tceq.state.tx.us/remediation/sites/asarco/downloads

    Because the site did not handle radioactive materials and no facilities that shipped waste to Asarco handled radioactive material, no radiation surveys were required and the Texas Custodial Trust (the Trust) has not collected measurements for radioactivity at the Site.

    Naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) is present everywhere in the environment and the Trust carefully reviewed the study the EPA produced in 1999 that specifically examines copper mining in Arizona, and the technological enhancement of natural radioactive material (TENORM) through the mining process . Given the nature of the smelter feed , the level of documentation on the subject, and the scrutiny by the regulatory agencies involved in the project, we do not believe that the concentrates processed at the plant could result radioactive levels above any regulatory limits.

    The Trust has also investigated records received from EPA regarding material shipments to the site, specifically materials that may have been processed by ENCYCLE and other sources.

    In October 2010 the Trust issued the Review of Asarco El Paso Smelting Processes. The review document included an evaluation of shipment records that were available to the Trust at that time. Section 3.1 of the review document included the list of 17 records, posted in 2010 to the USEPA Region 6 Website that describe materials that had been shipped to ENCYCLE from numerous sources. This evaluation found a letter dated December 1995 where ENCYCLE informed the TNRCC that it had received a lead sulfide waste; containing naturally occurring radioactive material at quantities less than the regulated level; but it did not indicate the quantity of material or if the material was shipped to the El Paso Site. It should be noted that there was no lead processing on the site since the mid 1980s.

    In 2012 the Trust initiated the evaluation of shipment records, made available by the USEPA in 2011 and 2012, related to shipments to ENCYCLE. This evaluation is ongoing and should be completed in January 2013. The results of the evaluation of records made available by the USEPA will be included in the Supplement Remedial Investigation (RI) Report that is currently in preparation. The Supplemental RI will be issued in the first quarter of 2013 and will be made available for agency and public review.

    To date the evaluation of shipment records has found no indication of radioactive materials. In addition, the records document that quench brine from the Rocky Mountain Arsenal in Colorado (RMA) and the Deseret Chemical Depot in Utah (DCD) were shipped to ENCYCLE. RMA and DCD were/are chemical weapons facilities, not nuclear facilities, so their wastes are not expected to be radioactive. The 2005 Five-Year Review Report for Rocky Mountain Arsenal does not list radioactive isotopes as chemicals of concern. According to a May 14, 2010, letter from the USEPA to community members, each waste shipment sent from RMA to ENCYCLE (which later shipped the waste to the Site) was tested and found not to be radioactive.

    Given the scrutiny of the site from both state and federal authorities, we do not expect natural or man-made radioactive materials above regulatory levels on or around the facility or in the stack. Our focus is on the identified and verified constituents of concern, which include lead, arsenic and cadmium.

    Regards,

    Roberto Puga
    Trustee

  • Email from Heather McMurray to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

    Email Subject Heading: Why has the Trust lied by omission to the El Paso Community?

    Roberto Puga’s response is bolded.

    Dear Ms. McMurray,

    Thank you once again for your continues interest in the Former ASARCO site. I apologize for the length of time it took for us to respond to you – it was a combination comprehensively answering your questions coupled with the holiday season vacations of my staff. Please see below for our responses, and as you requested this exchange will be posted on our website blog.

    Mr. Puga,

    ASARCO has been acting for years as a HLRW (high level radioactive waste) U.S. DOE waste disposal contractor — for places like Oakridge, TN and Hanford, WA and nearly 30 other sites. Why did you never tell the community? You, the EPA, the US DOE, DOJ and others would not mention it even under TX PIA or federal FOIA acts to many of those agencies for full disclosure of ASARCO.) It is my understanding that once the Trust sold materials to be used, burned, etc, that it was those company’s responsibility to run radiation tests on the materials after receipt.

    Response: As we have stated previously, both the EPA and GAO have reviewed and reported on the Asarco and Encycle matter which addressed the issue of improper waste handling. Enforcement action was taken against Asarco and the matter was settled in 1999. The GAO report and subsequent EPA documents are clear in their findings and conclusions regarding the issue.

    As we discussed above, Asarco, as a large integrated metal producer and refiner obviously handled a wide variety materials including radioactive materials. Given the scrutiny of the site from both state and federal authorities, we do not expect man-made radioisotopes, TENORM, byproducts or residues at levels above their respective natural levels. Our focus is on the identified constituents which include lead, arsenic and cadmium.

    The Trust issued the Review of Asarco El Paso Smelting Processes in October 2010. The review document was based on the evaluation of shipment records that were available to the Trust at that time. Section 3.1 of the review document included the list of 17 records, posted in 2010 to the USEPA Region 6 Website (http://www.epa.gov/region6/asarco_documents/asarco_documents.html), that describe materials that had been shipped to ENCYCLE from numerous sources.

    In 2012 the Trust initiated the evaluation of records, made available by the USEPA in 2011 and 2012, related to shipments to ENCYCLE. This evaluation is ongoing and should be completed in January 2013 and will be documented as part of the Supplement Remedial Investigation (RI) for the site that is currently being prepared. It is anticipated that the Supplemental RI will be completed in the first quarter of 2013 and will be made available for public review at the time it is submitted for agency review.

    Please do not continue to act as if the grounds are safe for tours, that the stack can be safely blown and the pieces stored in an arroyo over a maximum-life 40 year plastic liner right next to the Rio Grande that supplies 60 % of our drinking water. The stack is safer left plugged and standing.

    You have allowed visitors onto the site and in the stack without testing for any of the alpha or beta radiation remaining. You have hidden, protected under the Atomic energy act and subsequent asarco bankruptcy that refused to discuss the U.S. DOE radioactive high level waste disposal contractors (at least two more besides asarco) CAUGHT sending illegal waste sludges and incinerator ashes to El Paso. You have ignored the levels of hafnium found at higher levels nearer the stacks — an element mostly used in nuclear control rods.

    Please stop the tours.

    Response in regard to Tours: The former Asarco El Paso Smelter Site has been extensively investigated and the issues surrounding handling of wastes have been addressed. Environmental monitoring is performed throughout the project and the data has been reviewed by both EPA and TCEQ, as well as industrial hygienists charged with assuring compliance with the applicable health, safety and environmental regulations as directed by those agencies. On this basis we believe the Site is safe for guided tours of short duration.

    Response in regard to the Demolition of the Stack: Dykon Explosive Demolition, Inc. has more than 30 years in explosive demolition experience and is responsible for the felling of more than 100 stacks around the world. Dust suppression techniques will be customized to address any area where dust is anticipated to be generated. Additionally, traffic will be controlled and rerouted, as necessary, by the El Paso Police Department on the day of the demolition.

    You mentioned in the press/media years ago that as a young person you had assisted a local Catholic Priest in Sunday worships. I hope that you will repent what you are doing and quit and get out of this business if it does not let you be honest with us. Even the integrity of the local head of the clean up firm you are using has come under scrutiny by having his powers as Trustee on the EPISD school board removed (David Dodge of Malcolm Pirnie).

    No elementary school or personal housing should be built across the freeway on top of the old lead ASARCO dump (it has not been touched or remediated). Be honest with this community.

    Response: As you may be aware, the City of El Paso in 2010 commissioned a development study of various parts of the City, including the former ASARCO site from the city planning firm Dover Kohl. The development study included a community interaction phase that solicited input from the community regarding their vision for the future of the former ASARCO property. The Dover Kohl study recommended that the former ASARCO site properties west of I-10, i.e., the primary plant site and the area between Paisano Drive and the Rio Grande formerly called Smeltertown, would be zoned for commercial/light industrial use. These properties are not zoned for residential use.

    However, the former ASARCO properties east of I-10, which were not part of the plant site but did have wastes disposed on them, potentially could be utilized for residential uses if the properties could be cleaned up to residential health and safety standards. The Trust is currently investigating the extent of contamination on these properties and the cost of cleaning them up to residential standards. Based on the findings of the investigation, the Trust will make a decision as to whether these properties could be developed as residential. As we have in the past, the Trust will confirm with TCEQ and EPA the desired uses for all of the properties and will announce its decisions via the Trust’s website and the media.

    It is common scientific knowledge that the chemicals illegally disposed of in our El Paso ASARCO stacks can be associated with leukemias, birth defects including loss of organs at birth ( brain, limb/s) , cancers, and other diseases. It is also common knowledge that the slag does not hold the chemicals forever and that every ten years 10 percent of the materials have off-gassed or leached out.

    Response: The Trust was not provided with resources or mandate to address past physical injuries that may have been incurred by any person who worked at the ASARCO plant, and was not provided with resources or mandate to address ASARCO’s “actions,” legal or otherwise, while it owned the site. The Trust is tasked with: 1) coming up with the best remedial plan achievable with the money provided by the bankruptcy court to address the environmental concerns and 2) to sell the property according to the appropriate uses allowed by the TCEQ and EPA, in conjunction with consultation with the City of El Paso on the use and sale of the property; the Trust is committed to fulfilling these tasks.

    Again, I plead with you to be honest with the people of this region or quit.

    Response: The Trust has been completely transparent in its discussions regarding the constituents of concern at the Site and made available to the public all material it has and there is nothing kept “secret” by the Trust. Any other documents not in our possession are available from TCEQ or EPA. For the current cleanup program, the Trust has posted on its website all documents it produces in the form of plans, specifications, presentations and reports. The allegation that the Trust, which is charged with cleaning up the Asarco site, is somehow withholding information or failing to pursue issues relevant to health and safety of the community is simply false and unsupported by its actions.

    Heather McMurray, M.S. Biological sciences , certified/highly qualified composite science teacher

  • Email from Ross Maynard to Site Trustee Roberto Puga

    The following is an email exchange between Ross Maynard and the Site Trustee. The Trustee’s responses are in bold.

    You may have a fantastic opportunity in those smokestacks!
    Go to these web sites and you’ll see what I’m talking about:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_updraft_tower

    http://www.solaripedia.com/13/371/5025/solar_updraft_tower_in_manzanares_spain.html

    Please take this message seriously. You could get international attention with a project like this.

    Ross Maynard
    Williamston MI

    Roberto Puga’s response:

    Dear Mr. Maynard,

    Thank you for your interest in the former ASARCO site, and for sending me the solar updraft information.

    In our opinion, using the on-site tower as the basis of a solar updraft project is not feasible for the following reasons:

    • Tower Height – the tallest onsite tower is 826-feet high. Typically, solar updraft project specify towers in commercial projects that are being planned are thousands of feet tall.
    • Solar Energy Collector Area – Also, the need a significant area around the base of the tower for solar energy collector (>100 acres). The entire smelter site property is about 125 acres, but it is asymmetrical, i.e., the tower is on one end of the oval shaped property. This asymmetry would reduce the available solar energy collection area.
    • Potential Output – The experimental solar updraft project in Manzanares, Spain was 50 kW (per the information you sent me). The Manzanares tower height and collection area were similar to what we would have at the former ASACRO site. 50 kW is a very small return for the capital investment necessary to convert the tower to a solar updraft project. And, more importantly, it will make the City’s vision for redevelopment impossible.
    • Tower Structural Stability – A recent evaluation of the tower structural stability indicates that there is a serious deflect in the tower’s design vis-à-vis wind loads. This defect would have to be corrected before the tower could be used for any purpose.

    Thank you for interest, and don’t hesitate to contact us again with any other question or comment.

    Regards,

    Roberto Puga
    Trustee.

  • Email to Joe Muench and Robert Moore in Response to El Paso Times Editorial Board Opinion

    Email Subject Heading: 12/19/12 Editorial (read the editorial)

    Mr. Muench and Mr. Moore:

    Regarding today’s editorial, what has happened between Dec. 8 and today, Dec. 19? You may think that today’s editorial is only asking for a new study, but our group is receiving phone calls and texts asking why the El Paso Times editorial board has changed their position regarding the Asarco stacks to wanting to preserve them.

    Clearly, Robert Ardovino has met with the El Paso Times editorial board and per my conversation with you Mr. Muench, today that was confirmed.

    I and other representatives of our group of nearly 60 would also like to meet with you and I will call per your direction to set this up.

    We beg to differ with your characterization of our community that there is no organized group “nearly as adamant for tearing down the stacks as the Save the Stacks people”. Most of the community reads that city council voted down the resolution supporting purchasing the stacks with their tax dollars and believe that they don’t need to be wary of the issue popping up again. This isn’t a stack’s popularity contest.

    The issue is public health and safety. Do the stacks have to “glow” for people to get it, that these stacks are polluted and “should be regarded as toxic waste” per the Sierra Club of the Lone Star Chapter of Texas.

    It is questionable whether Robert Ardovino and group care about a memorial to the Asarco workers. They are interested in loading the cost of preserving the stacks onto the city tax payer with possible aspirations of developing a mall. If you want all the links that Susie Byrd sent to one of our group, I will be happy to forward them. This isn’t about preserving history. The stacks were built in 1966. If you want to preserve real history, preserve the missions. If this is about providing a memorial to the workers, let’s give them one on site that won’t sicken or kill them.

    We don’t need anymore of the debate and delays which have been going on since 2009. Mr. Roberto Puga delayed demolition of the stacks in Nov. 2011 to Nov. 2012 and then another month. Studies have been done. The question is who do you believe? Ardovino’s engineering firm spent less than a month assessing the stacks and determined it would cost only $4 million over 50 years and no up front stabilization funds would be needed. The same firm admitted that they had not studied what would be required to stabilize the stacks in case of failure due to wind.

    Mr. James Sher of the TCEQ,B.A. in Hydraulic Engineering, MA in Civil Engineering, Professional Engineer, State of Texas and Mr. Roberto Puga, BS in Geophysics, experienced in remediation and development have both spent years on the Asarco site. Sher’s remediation plan which includes demolition of the stacks as the first task, can be read on the TCEQ website as well as many documents provided by the Sierra Club of the Lone Star Chapter, the EPA etc.

    Mr. Puga has already conducted a study which rendered results which were published before Mr. Moore returned to El Paso. The study concluded that it would take about $6 million up front to stabilize the stacks and $100,000 or more per year for maintenance. The cost would be $14 million over 50 years. Puga has also estimated that it would require over $4 million more up front to retro-fit the stacks to prevent failure–cracking and falling–due to wind.

    Studies cost at least $30,000 to conduct. These are not cheap studies and since Puga has already hired an independent engineering firm to conduct a study, we don’t see the need to spend further remediation dollars to conduct another study. If you want the bottom line, it will take millions up front and over time to preserve the stacks.

    Do not ignore the cost of lost tax revenue, estimated to be $5 to 5.5 million per year because no one will buy the site with the stacks on it. Additionally, in conversations with Ms. Leslie Rose of Citizens for a Healthy Bay in Tacoma, Washington, they also could not sell their Asarco site with the stacks standing. She can also give you an earful of why the Asarco stacks should be demolished and placed out of reach of human contact.

    It appears to me that Ardovino and group are quick to say the studies overseen by Mr. Puga, the TCEQ and the EPA are wrong and they’re right. At the council meeting where his resolution was voted down, what I saw was a slide Ardovino presented with the tallest stack with his name on it instead of Asarco. The implications of his ambition became quite clear to me in that one slide and it should be clear to the editorial board. To quote you Mr. Muench, “The Star on the Mountain, not the two smokestacks, is El Paso”. (I would add the word “polluted” before smokestacks.)

    I can be reached by e-mail and by phone.

    Sincerely,

    Peggy McNiel

  • Email from Peggy McNiel to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

    Email Subject Heading: We Support You!

    The group of now over 50 citizens support the demolition of the two Asarco smokestacks which has always been a key element of the original remediation/clean-up plan for the Asarco site.

    The names of the people who support your moving the plan for this blighted site forward to a bright and safe future are listed on the attachment and I’m still receiving names.

    The names under the “e-mail” list will immediately get a copy of this note.

    Mr. James Sher of TCEQ and Mr. Chuck Barnes of the EPA are also copied in the “Bcc” list for their information.

    We also support you Mr. Puga and denounce the impugning of your character by those who wish to sacrifice safety of the public to achieve their objectives.

    With Support:

    Citizens Supporting Demolition of the two Asarco smokestacks

  • Email from Richard Artalejo to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

    Email Subject Heading: Save the stacks

    Dear Sir,

    I am an El Paso native and I want to express my stance in support of saving the former Asarco smokestacks from demolition. The stacks have been a presence for some 50 years and have become a landmark of the area. But more than this I envision that they can become a defining hallmark for the city, state, and region by venrtue of their size and location. All it would take would be a simple makeover as envisioned in the attached rough rendition.

    It can be very important for a city to have a great and widely recognizable symbol and as yet it’s unclear what comes to mind when people thing of El Paso. The Alamo & Riverwalk come to mind when people think of San Antonio, my current location. El Paso has the star on the mountain which is only visible at night, but the stacks redone as I’ve shown or similar could make a huge impession on I-10 travelers passing through from California to Florida both night and day. Without the stacks you have a dusty plain with a view of shanytowns across the river of questionable alternative value.

    Before one can expect new development or improvements, one should consider working with what one has and make the most of it and here one has enormous rare potential. We must not lose such a golden opportunity. Perhaps corporate sponsorship is an option, as it has been in virtually all stadiums and arenas in the country. The high profile of the towers could be very attractive to potential sponsors seeking some sort of advertisement. Thank you

    Sincerely, Richard Artalejo

  • Email from Peggy McNiel to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

    Email Subject Heading: Update

    After attending Tuesday’s (11/27/12) council meeting and seeing your hair raising presentation of what high wind conditions could do to the Asarco stacks, it is amazing to me that any rational person could possibly want to attempt to preserve the smokestacks.

    As you noted the upfront costs to strengthen just the highest stack would be over $5 million, maintenance thereafter is at least $100,000 to $150,000 per year. So over 50 years, we are looking at $10 to $20 million. Plus, we have to add in the lost revenue of $5 to $5.5 million a year since the land is unmarketable with the stacks. That’s another $250 to $275 million over the 50 year period. That doesn’t include liability costs or any other unforeseen events minor or catastrophic.

    Fortunately, for us citizens, you are doing your job and pointing out to all interested parties the enormous responsibility,in terms of costs,an entity would have to assume to safely preserve the smokestacks.

    Unfortunately, for you, those who are unhappy with the message, want to change the message, make it less costly and demonize the messenger–who would be you.

    I and a group of us now up to 50 and still growing would like to applaud you for explaining some very difficult concepts to non-engineers so that we can understand how very dangerous the Asarco smokestacks could be if not properly maintained in perpetuity.

    Many still don’t get this even though, we think you have done an outstanding job of explaining it.

    We are ready for you to continue with the original plan which includes demolition of the smokestacks.

    Thank you, Mr. Puga.

    Peggy McNiel
    Cc:members of the group of 50 with e-mails Bcc:James Sher of TCEQ and Chuck Barnes of the EPA

  • Email from Mike Rooney to El Paso Council Members and Mayor John Cook

    Email Subject Heading: Would baseball team owners donate team’s profits to Save The Stacks — rather than charity? And would the PDN and other non-profits help them?

    Good morning Councilwoman Byrd, Mayor Cook and Council Members.

    [P] First, please kindly note — that I fully agree with the City Council’s decision — not to take ownership of the ASARCO smoke stacks and its surrounding property — for the prudent, cautious reasons expressed — in the excellent, detailed El Paso TIMES article BELOW by Chris Roberts. [See ITEM 1 news article -- BELOW].

    [P] At the same time I do have empathy for the noble thought behind Mr. Ardovino and others work — to turn only that big smoke stack into some kind of a lasting memorial — to the ASARCO workers — who’s work contributed to the building and economy of El Paso.

    [P] Since the baseball stadium deal and the associated destruction/relocation of the City Hall erupted into such a divisive issue — and the fact that the baseball owners have said they would donate the teams profits to charity — would they be willing to donate that funding to the Save The Stack’s group instead?

    [P] After all both the team owners and the City’s overall goal — is to make this baseball deal a economic and “downtown re-development” success. Therefore, would contributing the team’s profits to a memorial for workers — aid the community healing process?

    [P] In addition, would the PDN and other non-profits be willing to step forward — had help Mr. Ardovino and the Save The Stacks group?

    [P] Understand time is short — and the liability, ownership, and $10-Million purchase price of the property — are daunting problems to overcome.

    [P] QUESTION — are others willing to come forward — without placing this burden on the City and its taxpayers — to help Mr. Ardovino and the Save The Stacks group — take on this project for workers and for the preservation of history?

    ——————————– THANK YOU and Sincerely, Mike Rooney.

    ITEM 1 — El Paso TIMES article by Chris Roberts

    ********** EXTRACTS from the BELOW El Paso TIMES article by Chris Roberts:

    ———- Whatever the cost, council members showed little inclination to dedicate any city resources to the project.

    ———- City Rep. Courtney Niland said she was sympathetic to the cause but felt it should have been included in the quality-of-life bond issue approved by voters earlier this month. Niland — the Asarco site is in her district — also mentioned an estimated annual loss to the city of $5.5 million in property-tax revenue if the city buys the land.

    ———- In response to a question from Niland, El Paso City Manager Joyce Wilson said the city would have to take on additional debt to fund the preservation project.

    ———- “We don’t have the monies, and we’re taking on a tremendous amount of debt,” Niland said. And she said she promised her constituents that the site would be cleaned up by 2015, which is the deadline Puga set.

    ———- “That’s a promise you made to this community, and it has to be done,” Niland told Puga.

    ———- Puga said he had only recently received the group’s proposed resolution, which was prepared without his company’s input. He said he responded quickly, within two days.

    ———- Of the land purchase requirement, he added, “fall zones gobble up a huge percentage of the smelter site property.”

    ———- City Rep. Steve Ortega questioned whether Puga could sell the stacks to someone who was not the highest bidder.

    ———- Although Puga earlier said the terms of the court order that created the trust require him to get the highest value for the land and that all the money must go to remediation, he said Tuesday the language was not perfectly clear.

    ———- Puga said he has some discretion if he can broker a deal that benefits the trust.

    ———- Nonetheless, cost and liability concerns persisted among council members.

    ———- “I’m really uncomfortable with the liability,” said city Rep. Dr. Michiel Noe. “I fear potential claims, litigation down the road. I think, at this time, it would be a bad idea.”

    El Paso City Council declines to buy stacks: Reps back preservation, but not using tax money for it

    ITEM 2 — El Paso TIMES editorial

    Smokestacks: Can’t afford preservation

    ITEM 3 — El Paso TIMES article by Chris Roberts

    ********** EXTRACTSfrom the BELOW El Paso TIMES article by Chris Roberts:

    ———- “But Puga said there are significant hurdles to clear before he will sign off on an agreement to save those towering chimneys.”

    ———- “One of those is a requirement that the city assume liability for personal injury from contaminants at the site and partial or total collapse of the stacks.”

    ———- “The possibility of partial or total collapse, he wrote in the email, could make the property “unmarketable.”

    ———- “Puga, who works for Project Navigator, said company experts are examining the engineering reports to ensure that they were properly conducted and reached sound conclusions. He suggested that the city would be wise to do its own structural analysis.”

    ———- “The Trust Agreement does not allow the Trust money to be spent on rehabilitating the structural integrity of the stacks or the cost of ongoing maintenance as demanded by the Save the Stacks group,” Puga said in the email.”

    ———- “In an interview earlier Friday, he said that if the stacks are not destroyed, the slightly more than $1 million it will cost for demolition would be put to other remediation tasks or set aside in a fund to deal with unforeseen remediation problems, as required by the agreement.”

    ———- “Puga also said in the email that his trust duties include taking any appropriate action “to maximize the sale price of the property to help pay for the remediation and cleanup costs.”

    ———- “The trust, he wrote, has retained a national brokerage firm that contacted “several parties” that successfully developed other remediated industrial sites and are interested in the Asarco land in El Paso. The firm’s consultants, he wrote, say those parties are not interested in purchasing the site if the smokestacks remain.”

    ———- ” If the city wants to purchase the smokestacks, Puga wrote, it will have to pay a price “at least equal to what the Trustee could have received from other interested parties who were willing to purchase the Property without the stacks.”

    ———- “The letter also notes that the city stands to lose an estimated $5 million to $5.5 million in tax revenues if it purchases the land.”

    ———- “The Save the Stacks resolution contends that the effort to avoid demolition was discouraged by the trust’s $14 million estimate for repair, maintenance and operations over a 50-year period.”

    ———- “A Save the Stacks estimate posted on the trust’s “Recasting the Smelter” Web site shows a cost of about $3.9 million for repair and environmental remediation over that time, but does not include the cost of operation, maintenance or insurance.”

    ———- “Puga said the trust’s estimate — in detail — was posted on its website two years ago. If the stacks are structurally sound, Puga said, the 50-year cost would be somewhat lower.”

    ———- “But most of the money in our cost estimate is for long-term operation and maintenance,” he said.”

    El Paso City Council to look at taking Asarco smokestacks back to protect them

    ITEM 4 — El Paso TIMES article by Chris Roberts

    ********** EXTRACTS from the BELOW El Paso TIMES article by Chris Roberts

    ———- The stack’s 600-foot neighbor, apparently, will be demolished. Robert Ardovino, a Save the Stacks founder, has said the group wanted to save both, but would be happy if it could save the tallest one with the Asarco lettering.

    ———- The price tag for saving the stack also appeared to grow last week when Puga said real estate consultants told him interest in purchasing the land was based on smokestack demolition. Because the surrounding land could be rendered “unmarketable” if the stack remains, he said, the city also would have to purchase that 153 acres at a cost of about $10 million.

    ———- “We don’t think a private developer is going to want to take on the liability of building underneath the stacks,” Puga said.

    ———- And a 2-year-old study conducted for the trust indicated it would cost $14 million over a 50-year period to operate, maintain and insure the stacks. A Save the Stacks study found it would cost about $3.9 million for repairing the stack and doing the required environmental cleanup.

    ———- On Monday, Ardovino said the group had received estimates of about $8,000 per year for maintenance and about $40,000 per year for insurance. That would bring the 50-year cost to about $6.3 million.

    Cost to preserve ex-Asarco chimney grows

  • Email from Joachim Schalk to the Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

    Email Subject Heading: Public comment concerning Save the Stacks

    Mr Puga,

    I am a supporter of Save the Stacks and I wanted to share a message with you.

    Thank you and your team’s work concerning the El Paso exASARCO site. Especially your website and blog that allows me to stay in touch with the issue given my lack of free time.

    I was part of the community action against the ASARCO permit renewal and during that time I became familiar with the site, it’s history and it’s contamination. It is very important to me that the site be cleaned up as well as possible. I understand that idea of what ‘cleaning up the site’ means is an enormously complicated conversation involving nonsensical ranting and serious reasonable conflicting viewpoints. (And plenty of in between.) I really appreciate that as far as I can tell you and yoru team have stayed as close to the science as possible and have remediated as much as possible as cost-effectively as possible while providing clear documentation of each step.

    I believe you have provided good leadership and clear communication to the political community in El Paso and I thank you for that. It would have been very easy to just send memos and then bring down the towers.

    I’d like to make the following points (I don’t know if your website addresses these, i haven’t been able to read everything)

    1. I am unconvinced that the tiny budget and resource set you were given is enough to adequately clean the site for normal industrial use. There is endless possible amount of work to do but the community of El Paso should have a plan for returning the site to residential use. That plan would outline what would need to be done and what any potential new source of funding should be used on. Please do not hesitate to document what you believe to be the correct course of future action for the next owners. I understand that this might dissuade potential buyers -the idea that there is a giant document saying they haven’t done enough- but El Paso deserves the respect that document would demonstrate. We deserve nothing less then the best information and the highest quality of life.

    2. I really like the idea of putting the eye of Sauron on the top of the tower. That would be hilarious, cool and awesome. It would immediately put El Paso on the global map and would have untold cultural value. for those who think this is Silly I would like to remind them that the Eiffel Tower was just a dumb idea ridiculed by most of Paris. Weird stuff can be cool and since we do not have to build the Tower of Mordor, only maintain it, I think it would serve El Paso well to try it out.

    2.B. In that vein is there any way we can put an eye up there just to see how it looks at night?

    I thought I had something else but I have to get back to work.

    I have no time or money to dedicate to this cause (other more important personal projects demand my attention) so I thank you for receiving my e-mail and allowing this to be part of the discussion.

    Thanks to you and your team,
    Joachim Schalk
    UTEP Area resident most of his life

  • Email from Mike Rooney to Representative Norma Chavez, with CC to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

    Email Subject Heading: THANKS for very interesting ASARCO Smoke Stacks radio show

    Hi Norma.

    [P] THANK YOU for the most interesting, informative radio show today — on the ASARCO Smoke Stack issue with your guest Robert Ardovino. What was interesting was a possible sea change in attitude — from those past heated and passionate debates over saving the smoke stacks.

    [P] Found Bill Addington and Heather Murry’s call in comments interesting and helpful — that dropping the stacks and turning them into rubble only creates more environmental problems.

    [P] Found Robert Ardovino’s comment helpful too — that engineering and construction of that big smoke stack by the builder — a noted German Engineering and Construction firm — that the stack is considered well constructed and reinforced with ample rebar. There was no mention or discussion of the engineering and stability of that smaller smoke stack. In addition, he said folks had to consider — that the big smoke stack is no longer in operation — so it is no longer subjected to the heat and cooling extremes of the smelting process. That lack of use should add years of life to the big smoke stack.

    [P] In reference to my question about the cost to insure the smoke — Mr. Ardovino said an insurance quote he got from a local insurance firm — based of his group’s new engineering report — was an estimated cost of $40,000-per-year. Again no mention was given to insuring the smaller smoke stack.

    [P] This $40,000-per-year insurance quote seems to raise an interesting question. If use the “Save The Stacks”dollar projection — and divide $3.9-Million by 50-years — that would give a $78,000 yearly projection. Now if you take that $78,000-per-year projection — and subtract $40,000-per-year for insurance — that leaves only $38,000-per-year for all other costs. Therefore, is $78,000-per-year really a realistic projection? Don’t know if $38,000-per-year — would pay the salary and benefits of one person for a year. In addition, wonder if anyone in the City’s Parks Department — is even qualified to deal with smoke stacks of this size? Therefore, suspect this function — may have to be contracted out to a firm that could handle that work.

    [P] From following this issue — it seems some may have tried to cast doubt on Mr. Pugas earlier projection of $14-Million over a 50-year period. If you divide $14-Million by 50-years — that gives $280,000. So when you consider the cost of maintenance, upkeep and insurance — is Mr. Puga’s estimate really flawed?

    [P] Though it may not make him popular or a home coming king — it would seem it’s most appropriate for Mr. Puga to surface his cautions to both the City and public — before any City decision is rendered.

    [P] THANKS again for a most interesting radio show and discussion.

    —————————————————– THANK YOU and Sincerely, Mike Rooney.

  • Email from Marcia Turner to Site Trustee Roberto Puga

    Dear Mr. Puga,

    I emailed you a year ago…..was disappointed in your decision to allow the “Save the STacks” people another year to organize. Now we’ve waited the year – - AND ANOTHER MONTH – - we are ready for the stacks to come down!! Your original plan was perfect! You were influenced in your decision. Please stick with your decision now – do not be swayed by the politicians! The stacks are a blight on our community……….it’s really up to you now……..please stay with your original plan!!! thank you, Marcia

  • Email from Anne Walker to El Paso City Council Members and Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

    Email Subject Heading: I am opposed to saving the ASARCO stacks

    In my opinion, they are a reminder of several terrible things: pollution, contamination of soil leading to permanent and debilitating disease, and exploitation, to name a few.

    I would love to see the area reclaimed, decontaminated, and put to some good use. However, I believe the cost of restoring and maintaining the stacks would be much better directed to continued restoration of our once-beautiful downtown, especially the area around the plaza, or to preventing further destruction of our mountain.

    I am not opposed to building homes on the lower elevations of the Franklins. What I am opposed to is the lack of care and concern for the visual and ecological impact of allowing a few, very wealthy, people to build multistory homes which are garish and which do not blend in to the surroundings. Other cities do allow some building, but the homes are discrete and one level, so the rest of the citizens and tourists are not subjected to looking at ugly, ostentatious structures where our beautiful mountain terrain once was.

    Thank you for considering my opinion. Let’s encourage those who wish to spend time and money on the ASARCO smokestacks to, instead, promote and restore other parts of the city which we can truly be proud of.

    Sincerely,

    Anne Walker

  • Email from Jessica Barriac to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

    Email Subject Heading: Asarco Stacks

    I am told that there is a resolution to come before Council on Tuesday that has been initiated by those who wish to “save” the stacks. I believe this to be not only a foolish move but a disastrous one for El Paso. No one will visit El Paso to see smoke stacks.

    The enlightened move would be to follow the original remediation plan developed by James Sher of the TCEQ which includes demolition of the stacks.

    Jessica Barriac

  • Email from Peggy McNiel to El Paso Mayor and City Council

    Mayor and City Council:

    The citizens in the “Cc” list and those below with phone numbers want you to vote NO on the resolution to buy the Asarco stacks. The do not want any city,state and/or federal taxes or revenue especially from the recent bonds to be allocated to buying and/or preserving the Asarco stacks. Again, I have copied Robert Puga, James Sher and Chuck Barnes in the blind copy slot.

    Some of the statements paraphrased in personal e-mails to me are:

    We just voted on bonds to move the city forward–we don’t want to move backward and fund the Asarco stacks.

    We want to recover our beautiful landscape which has been scarred by these polluting stacks.

    More citizens against the resolution below and there would be more if we didn’t just find out about this:

    Dr. Richard Falvo
    Julianna Hernandez
    Robert McGregor
    Crystal Robert
    Liz Gaidry
    Patrick Rosser
    Richard Clarence
    Vanesa Casner
    Janie Grant
    Bernadine McNiel
    Edie Brannon
    Janet Jenkins
    Bob Brannon
    Dominique Dominguez
    Bryan Nehring
    Michael Heett

    [Note: Individuals' addresses and phone numbers have been removed.]

  • Email from Malcolm S. Mitchell, M.D. to Mayor Cook

    Email Subject Heading: Why the Asarco Smoke Stacks Must be Razed (and not purchased by the City of El Paso)

    Dear Mayor Cook:

    I sent this to Mr. Alberto Puga in November, 2011, just over a year ago, when he was reviewing plans for the Asarco site.

    Perhaps you recall that I also discussed the Asarco demolition with you in 2008, and that you referred me to the Get the Lead Out group and Senator Shapleigh at the time. Because the City of El Paso appears to be considering purchase of the Asarco stacks, I felt it was appropriate to send this brief argument against the stacks, slightly modified, to you, for dissemination among the members of the City Council. Thank you for your consideration.

    Sincerely,

    Malcolm S. Mitchell, M.D.

    Retired Professor of Medical Oncology; former Chief of Oncology and Clinical Director, University of Southern California Cancer Center

    Why the Asarco Smoke Stacks Must Be Razed

    There are three main reasons why it is imperative to raze and remove the Asarco smoke stacks. First, they are unsightly, and a reminder of El Paso’s grim past, where yellow-green, acrid pollution hovered over much of the downtown area. That area included the University of Texas at El Paso, whose students and faculty were directly affected by the polluted air, and where the soil even today is undoubtedly contaminated with toxic byproducts of the smelting. Second, there is evidence that Asarco illegally burned toxic wastes after hours, incinerating materials from the Army, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, and other governmental agencies. The smoke stacks must be sampled for evidence of toxic materials known to be have been produced (and disposed of) by the government from the 1960s to 1999, when Asarco operations ceased in El Paso. This would conclusively prove that illegal disposal of hazardous wastes was being conducted surreptitiously, while the company was denying that activity. Third, removal of the smoke stacks, along with the rest of the physical plant, would allow the site to be developed for non-commercial use, and would absolutely prevent another polluter from taking over the site in the future. Whether that will be another smelter put up by the buyers of the property (who may like the proximity of the area to railroads), or a smelter erected by a new company whose identity we cannot yet know, we must prevent that occurrence. For these reasons, cleanup of the Asarco site would not be complete without razing and removing the offensive smoke stacks.

    The argument that the stacks are a “historically important” monument (akin to the Eiffel Tower or the Parthenon?) is totally misguided in my opinion. The stacks are simply a reminder of the bad old days when El Paso was a dumping site for metallurgical waste products, not the vibrant city it has become and continues to become.

  • Email from Mike Rooney to Brenda de Anda-Swann and Eric Huseby of KVIA-TV, with CC to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

    Email Subject Heading: Saving ASARCO smoke stacks — BAIT & SWITCH — What are long term costs and liabilities to City??

    Hi Brenda and Eric.

    [P] Please THANK Maria Garcia for her report last night — alerting the community about the Save The Stacks group’s plan to ask the City next Tuesday — to apparently take over the ASARCO smoke stacks. In addition, reporter Daniel Borunda added more detail to last night’s report — in this morning’s edition of El Paso TIMES. [See ITEM 1 for that El Paso TIMES article -- BELOW].

    [P] Kindly examine the El Paso TIMES editorial of two years ago. [See ITEM 2 editorial -- BELOW]. Believe that editorial may have been supported by an El Paso TIMES survey — which also seemed to reflect the feelings of participants in a community meeting held by Mr. Puga’s group in the downtown library. What has changed since that time?

    [P] That causes me to ask, especially since that editorial states — “Mayor John Cook said he will not ask City Council to raise property taxes to pay for saving the stack. He said it “would be a waste of taxpayer money” — are people playing a “Bait and Switch” game with our community?

    [P] What are the long term costs and liabilities to El Paso — if the City takes over these ASARCO smoke stacks?

    [P] Below are two e-mails that Mr. Puga was most generous to post on the Recasting The Smelter website. [See ITEM 3 e-mails -- BELOW]. One states:

    ———- “Attended your team’s informative update to the community held on November 3, 2011 at the downtown main library. During the QUESTION & ANSWER portion of the meeting — I ASK what would happen if that largest smoke stack were TO EVER FALL DOWN in the future — and you said if it fell towards the border with Mexico — it would fall across the railroad tracks and Paisano.”
    ———- “Since Paisano is the likely future route of the Border Highway West — you could potentially have a major roadway and railway closed — causing noticeable economic impact. Because of your CAUTION to my question — I provided the BELOW e-mail INPUT to officials — who will be conducting the December 8, 2011 public meeting — on the Loop 375 Border Highway WEST Extension Project.”
    [P] In the second e-mail it states — “Therefore, it would be PRUDENT TO KNOW — if one of those smoke stacks was ever to collapse and fall over — how much safe clearance arena is necessary — to prevent damage to any future construction on that ASARCO property? Is 1,000-feet around that smoke stack area — a safe distance? In addition, if all that concrete mass was to ever collapse and fall over — would it create any kind of earthquake like damage to surrounding structures or buildings — or would any potential damage simply be localized?”

    ———- [P] Bottom line — Mr. Puga’s actions to alert City Council and our community — about the potential long term costs of keeping these old ASARCO smoke stacks — certainly seems reasonable and responsible, plus most prudent!

    [P] Therefore, it seem most reasonable to ask the Save The Stacks group and City Council — to describe in detail the long term costs and liabilities they envision El Paso undertaking to keep and preserve these ASARCO smoke stacks.

    [P] From following this issue — it seems some have done all they could to cast doubt on this earlier projection by Mr. Puga — “A trust overseeing the cleanup of the Asarco area estimated it would cost $14 million to repair and maintain the structure over a 50-year period,” If you divide $14-Million by 50-years — that gives $280,000. When you consider the cost of maintenance, upkeep and insurance — is Mr. Puga’s estimate really flawed?

    [P] Now looking at the Save The Stacks economic projection — “but Save the Stacks estimates the cost would be $3.9 million.” If you divide $3.9-Million by 50-years — that would give a $78,000 yearly projection.

    [P] Therefore, it might seem a prudent and responsible governmental measure — to resolve these differences in cost projections.

    [P] So I hope your reporting staff — along with their fellow reporters in the local news media — will examine and report on this ASARCO smoke stack issue in detail. Again, What are the long term costs and liabilities to El Paso?

    ———————– THANK YOU and Sincerely, Mike Rooney.

    ***** POST SCRIPT:

    —– Now why did I use such a loaded term as “BAIT & SWITCH” in the subject of this e-mail? As some of you know I’ve questioned the need at this time — for a $90-Million limited area, short distance trolley or street car — when that money could be used to build two Bus Rapid Transit Routes and serve a larger number of transit riders.

    —– Attended a November 14, 2012 meeting of the Transportation Project Advisory Committee for the Transportation Policy Board — and discovered the item listed at the first ATTACHMENT. That item shows the apparent cost of the trolley — is $118.4-Million when you factor in inflation. That number splits to $59.2-Million to be funded by the FTA Small Starts program — and $59.2-Million in local Certificates of Obligation.

    —– As I recall the public is being told via the news media — that the FEDs will pay the entire $90-Million cost of this limited area trolley — with local property taxpayers only picking up the Operating costs. When I questioned this items during the meeting — was told by a responsible member of the MPO staff — that this was only a “place marker” for accounting purposes.

    —– Then I found a most interesting El Paso TIMES article — at the second ATTACHMENT — about New Orleans’ street car initiative — and had to wonder if El Paso is applying for funds under the same FTA program as New Orleans? Therefore, is the City providing the full details on this $90-Million trolley?

    ITEM 1 — El Paso TIMES article by Daniel Borunda

    ********** EXTRACTS from the BELOW El Paso TIMES article by Daniel Borunda:

    ———- Faced with an approaching deadline, activists fighting to save the Asarco smokestacks are urging the El Paso City Council to take over the towers and spare them from demolition when a resolution goes to council next week.

    ———- A trust overseeing the cleanup of the Asarco area estimated it would cost $14 million to repair and maintain the structure over a 50-year period, but Save the Stacks estimates the cost would be $3.9 million.

    ———- Roberto Puga, the trustee in charge of cleaning up and selling the Asarco site, said in an email last week that that his trust duties include taking any appropriate action “to maximize the sale price of the property to help pay for the remediation and cleanup costs.”

    ———- He wrote that several parties interested in the Asarco land are not interested in purchasing the site if the smokestacks remain.

    ———- If the city wants to buy the smokestacks, Puga wrote, it will have to pay a price “at least equal to what the Trustee could have received from other interested parties who were willing to purchase the Property without the stacks.”

    ———- The letter also says that the city stands to lose an estimated $5 million to $5.5 million in tax revenues if it buys the land.

    Deadline to save Asarco stacks: Resolution asks for El Paso City Council rescue | El Paso TIMES article by Daniel Borunda

    ITEM 2 — El Paso TIMES editorial

    ********** EXTRACTS from the BELOW El Paso TIMES editorial:

    ———- We say bring down the stack.

    ———- If it would be cost-effective to keep it, that would be different. Then we could deem it an icon and be done with it. But, at a cost of $14 million for modifications and then maintenance … let’s just say it’s not that much of an icon.

    ———- Mayor John Cook said he will not ask City Council to raise property taxes to pay for saving the stack. He said it “would be a waste of taxpayer money.
    ———- If the stack ever collapsed on its own, it would raise a very unhealthy, gagging dust cloud full of pollutants.

    Asarco stack: Don’t pay to keep it standing | El Paso TIMES editorial

    ITEM 3 — My two e-mails posted on the Recast The Smelter website

  • Resolution to Buy the Stacks

    Below is an email from Peggy McNiel to El Paso City Council Members.

    I urge that Mayor Cook refrain from plans to present the resolution to buy the Asarco stacks to the city council. If presented, I urge the Mayor and council to vote against this reckless and costly resolution.

    Mr. Robert Puga has delineated the rationale why the city should refrain from buying the stacks in today’s, 11/17/12 El Paso Times article.

    The stacks are not playthings or new restaurant concepts. Structurally repairing and maintaining them is serious and potentially dangerous and deadly business if not done in accordance with engineering principles and requirements as outlined by Mr. Puga. Robert Ardovino has casually tossed aside the trust’s study as too expensive and found another outfit to show the costs could be less. Because he has business opportunism as part of his motivation, it is in his interest to cavalierly reject sound but costly engineering remedies in studies provided by Mr. Puga who has no business interest in the property.

    Perhaps the stacks are endearing to some people in El Paso. However, as Mr. Puga has informed us, potential buyers of the Asarco site do not find them endearing or a positive attribute to their commercial enterprise. In fact, they would negate their decision to purchase.

    The rationale for downtown revitalization has always included increasing tax revenue. As Mr. Puga outlines, if the mayor and council vote to buy the site with the stacks, it renders the site unmarketable, thus eliminating any tax revenue estimated at $5 million to $5.5 million.

    If the city votes to buy this site, it is thus voting to lose $5 million to $5.5 million which is counter to the rationale it used in assessing the downtown revitalization plan. So which is it? Is the city truly trying to increase tax revenue or enter into tax draining, losing business propositions?

    Remember, when a poll of citizens was asked if they supported their tax dollars being spent to maintain the stacks, 80% said no.

    In accordance with the law, the deadline cannot be extended.

    I urge the Mayor and Representatives to respectfully reject this resolution in the interests of all.

    As a reminder, the Asarco stacks were demolished in Tacoma, Washington, Omaha, Nebraska and Monterrey, Mexico when the refiner was shut down.
    There is nothing remarkable about the stack which was built in 1969 except the height which according to Puga would have to be trimmed anyway if the stacks were left standing. Puga has made many efforts to recommend stack memorials at the site which should be accepted by those who truly have preserving the history of the refinery at heart and not reckless, costly and potentially dangerous objectives.

    Respectfully,

    Peggy McNiel
    Proud to be a native and citizen of El Paso

  • Email from Lisa McNiel to Site Trustee Roberto Puga regarding One Month Extension for Save the Stacks Group

    Roberto Puga’s response is bolded.

    Dear Mr. Puga,

    I was hoping that I had misread the newspaper articles but apparently not. Did you see the fiasco on the front page that the pro-smoke stack group wants for our city? We will not only be the laughing stock of Texas but of the entire country. Please take the safety message off your site because safety is not your priority or the Save the Stacks group either. The first words that come out of their mouths is not, “We will do everything we can not to cut corners and to ensure the public’s safety,” but instead, “What if I told you that maintaining the stacks will cost half?” This is a direct quote to one of my friends by the pro-smoke stack leader.

    A year ago you PROMISED no more extensions, and don’t even tell me that the group has met the conditions because they haven’t. They would not need so many extensions if they had. You have broken your promises. I guess the 80 per cent of us who are concerned with public safety and not private enterprise, the 80 per cent of us who do not want to pay to maintain the smoke stacks, the 80 per cent of us who can not wine and dine city officials or big money, DO NOT COUNT. I have emailed the mayor, my city reps, and anyone else I could think of. I am attaching my letters to the editor that will probably not get published, but at least I am exercising my freedom of speech. I apologize for the bluntness of my remarks, but you are probably used to that by now. I hope I didn’t yell too much on your cell, but quite frankly, I feel betrayed.

    Sincerely,

    Lisa McNiel

    Roberto Puga’s response:

    Dear Professor McNiel,

    Thank you for calling and writing me about the one month extension that I granted to the Save the Stacks Group. I do understand your frustration with my decision.

    As I explained to the Save the Stacks Group and the members of the media that contacted about the extension, the extension was granted wholly as a courtesy to the Mayor of El Paso. In return for the extension, the Mayor promised that if on December 4, 2012 the Save the Stacks Group did not have a viable plan submitted to the Trust, he would gladly receive and expedite the Trust’s application for the demolition permits necessary from the city.

    On December 4, 2012, the Save the Stack Group must submit a proposal that meets all of the following criteria:

    1. There must be a physical inspection of both stacks, as well as an engineering report by a qualified structural professional engineer certified to practice by the State of Texas, which demonstrates that the two stacks are structurally sound. The report must be stamped by the engineer responsible for the evaluation. The structural engineering report must include an evaluation of both seismic and wind loads on the stacks, using the most current available data. As part of that engineering certification, the engineering report must certify that the stacks and the site conditions comply with all the following requirements:
      1. The American Concrete Institute (“ACI”) “Code Requirements for Reinforced Concrete Chimneys” as found in ACI 307-08;
      2. The International Building Code (IBC);
      3. “Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and other Structures” as found in ASCE 7-10 as published by the American Society of Civil Engineers (“ASCE”) and in the USGS’ current seismic event estimates for the El Paso region;
      4. A determination if the foundation of the Stacks would comport with the wind and seismic loads found at the Site as outlined in “Building Code Requirements for Structural Concrete” ACI – 318; and
      5. The requirements for continued and ongoing maintenance of the Stacks as set out in the guidance document – “Chimney and Stack Inspection Guidelines” published by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
    2. The engineering report must include an opinion on the structural stability of the stacks, identify any retrofits or repairs that may be necessary to comply with the requirements set forth in Section 1 (a) through (e).
    3. The Save the Stacks Group must provide an estimate for the following costs (i) the total cost for all retrofits, and repairs identified the engineering report, by a qualified company in the business of retrofitting and repairing similar stacks, (ii) the cost of insurance (either by policy or set reserves if self-insured) and assuming a surrounding commercial mixed use development, and (iii) the cost for on-going operation and maintenance to maintain the stacks over the next 50-years from a qualified company recognized in the business of maintaining similar stacks.
    4. The Save the Stacks Group must provide the corporate documentation for any private entity (or the name of the state or federal entity if it is a public entity) that is proposed to take over the stacks. The proposed entity must provide, in writing, a commitment to comply with the requirements set forth below:
      1. Pay for the costs necessary for retrofit and repair the stacks to meet the qualifications of 1 (a) through (e) above, and to conduct any on-going operation and maintenance for the stacks as established in the engineering report.
      2. Obtain and pay for insurance on the two Stacks by an insurance company authorized to do business in the State of Texas to prevent any liability to the Trust, the Trust beneficiaries, any future purchaser of the ASARCO property and any neighboring landowner for the next 50 years. If self-insuring, identify the amount to be reserved the financial vehicle to be established to segregate the reserve.
      3. Provide an Indemnification to the Trust, the Trust Beneficiaries, any future buyer and all adjacent landowners for any property damage, personal injury or any other loss occasioned by:
        1. any adverse health effects from the stacks
        2. or from any physical failure of the either stack, up to and including a collapse of any stack; and
        3. from any act or omission of such entity.
    5. Any public entity that Save the Stack gets to agree to comply with the requirements above must demonstrate, to the Trust’s satisfaction, that such entity can administer and finance the requirements set for herein for at least 50 years and provide a binding letter of assurance that it is willing to meet each and every requirement, and verify that it has the ability and mandate (if a public entity) to meet those requirements.

    If the above minimal requirements are not met by December 4, 2012 to the Trust’s satisfaction, the Trust will move forward with plans to demolish the stacks.

    You mentioned that your concerns about the stack debate will not be heard. Reporter Robby Gray of El Paso, Inc. is very interested in the story, and I have taken the liberty of mentioning to him that you had misgivings about the stacks and my decision-making. He may contact you for comment. Additionally, your e-mail and my response will be posted to the blog section of our website.

    I hope that this response sheds some light on the recent dynamics of the stacks debate.

    Regards,

    Roberto Puga
    Trustee

  • Question regarding main ASARCO stack – Aug 27, 2012

    The following is an email from Juan Garza to the Site Trustee, Roberto Puga. Mr. Puga’s response is bolded.

    Mr. Puga, clarification on the Stacks.

    1. I’m not questioning the decision made by the Trust to allow for possible analysis to “Save the stacks”. (emails or internal documents are not part of this inquiry)
    2. You mentioned a while back that the stacks needed to be “earthquake proof”, why was that statement made?
    3. Will the Trust post documents related to the dual stack design of the main stack? providing detailed information on the interior stack.
    4. Has the Trust commissioned a heavy metals COC analysis with regards to rain water pooling at the base of the stack that spills out from the main and interior stacks during rain events?
    5. Federal Aviation Administration requires that hazard lights be turned on at night at the stacks, in what condition are the service ladders that provides access to different stations around the stack. What is the estimated cost on electricity to keep this running per year?
    6. The top deck has several lighting rods in place – is heavy corrosion present? Will the Trust post pictures from the top of the stack?

    Thank you for the web links, they do provide a partial response to my request.

    Juan Garza

    Roberto Puga’s response:

    Hello Mr. Garza,

    Please see below for responses to your questions and comments:

    1. Understood.
    2. The stacks were designed prior to current seismic theory being formulated, i.e., they have not gone through a stability analysis using the latest seismic code. Therefore, if the stacks were to remain standing one criterion would be that they meet the current seismic code standards.
    3. We can post design drawings showing the configuration and specifications for the interior stack. I will have our engineer post the drawings on the website in the next few days.
    4. There is testing of site storm water before it leaves the site. There is no requirement to test storm water from any specific location at the site unless we are doing active demolition work.
    5. You are absolutely right about the FAA requirements. There will be significant costs to:
      • a. run power to the stacks (there would have to be a special line brought in since the rest of the site infrastructure is gone),
      • b. replace the access ladder, which are very corroded
      • c. replace the lightning rods, which are missing
    6. At least one of the lightning rods on the big stack is missing; if the stack stays it will have to be replaced. We have a few pictures of the top of the stacks, which we will post to the website in the next few days.

    Please never hesitate to contact me with any follow-up questions or comments.

    Regards,

    Roberto Puga

  • Question regarding main ASARCO stack

    The following is an email from Juan Garza to the Site Trustee, Roberto Puga. Mr. Puga’s response is bolded.

    Mr. Puga,

    The most prominent feature left at the plant is this stack.

    1.) I would like to request that your company post videos of the stack on you tube for people to see.

    2.) Do you have an engineers report on the stacks condition?

    2a.) Are there any existing videos of the stack in operation that may have been turned over to the trust?

    Generally I’m interested in learning about everything related to the stack, history, construction, and current status. Is it off center or does it remain plum to the ground?

    3.) If you have geo studies taken from around the stack can you post them on the website?

    4.) Please update me on the work slated or proposed for the Olgebay Norton minus-50 slag pile adjacent to the Cemetery.

    Thank you.

    Juan Garza


    Dear Mr. Garza,

    I agree that the stacks are the most prominent feature at the site, and one that is currently controversial in El Paso. The Trust has agreed that a local community group, Save the Stacks, can see if the stacks can be saved. A final decision as to the fate of the stacks will be made soon.

    Here are responses to your direct questions:

    1. We have posted photos and videos of the stacks on the project website – www.recastingthesmelter.com. However, I am uncomfortable posting Trust related items on social media sites, and so we’ll restrict our internet based outreach to our website.

    2. One of the requirements we have asked the Save the Stacks Group to comply with is that they commission and complete a structural engineering assessment of the stacks. They are in the process obtaining an engineering contractor to do this task.

    3. The only footage that I know of that shows the plant in operation is the one shown at the El Paso History Museum last spring in their ASARCO exhibit. Mr. Jackson Polk has the original footage.

    4. Later this summer we will be performing a survey of the stacks to determine if they are plumb.

    5. A summary of stack construction information can be found here. All subsurface data has been posted to the website, and a summary of the existing data can be found in this report (this is a 42MB download). There is subsurface data in close proximity to the stacks.

    6. We are in discussions with TCEQ and EPA about the final disposition of the ‘Fines Pile”. Once a plan is formulated, the details will be posted to the website.

    Please contact me with any follow-up questions or comments.

    Regards,

    Roberto Puga

  • Question regarding Trichloroethylene (TCE)

    The following is an email from Jesus Serna to the Site Trustee, Roberto Puga. Mr. Puga’s response is bolded.

    Mr. Puga,

    Does the Asarco Site has the chemical trichloroethylene (“trike”) in the soil?

    If so, there is a way to clean it up.

    A concerned citizen.

    Jesus R. Serna

    Mr. Puga’s response:

    Dear Mr. Serna,

    Thank you for contacting me and your interest in the former ASARCO site.

    Site-wide the constituents of concern are non-organics, notably arsenic, cadmium and lead. We recently confirmed this with supplemental soils sampling that specifically targeted organics, and found that there were no significant occurrences of any organic and none of TCE.

    Regards,
    Roberto Puga

  • Comment from Heather McMurray

    The following is a duplication of a blog exchange between El Paso resident, Heather McMurray and Site Trustee, Roberto Puga from the March 27th blog post titled “The future for ASARCO.”

    Comment by Heather — March 28, 2012 @ 1:14 am

    As the El Paso Trustee has stated before, the TRUST is under NO fiduciary or contractual responsibility to test the stack [s] or slag from the process water distillation unit —- in other words to let us know what illegal chemicals remain here. The EPA and Federal Dept of Justice said that Asarco had run an illegal multi state hazardous waste incineration operation from 1991 to 1998 to make $$$$. Despite the Trust spending nearly 1/2 million dollars on testing we still do not have test results as thorough as those run for $twenty-thousand dollars by a private citizen — which provided a full metals panel. This site should not have schools, playgrounds or businesses until we are told the complete picture. It takes only swallowing or breathing ONE alpha radioactive particle for the exposure to be more toxic than arsenic. So why after six years of questions to the EPA and others, we cannot get a report showing what radioisotopes remain including radioactive lead, radium, radon, actinide-metals……. Why on earth is this land zoned for high-density of people and as a ‘walkable’ area when it is safer to stay inside with the windows shut according to an arsenic expert in N.C.?

    admin Reply: April 5th, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    Response from the Trust

    Dear Ms. McMurray,

    Thank you for your comment and continued interest in this challenging project.

    The Trust, the TCEQ and the EPA maintain that the Site is adequately characterized and based on the extensive sampling effort and chemical analyses performed on soil, slag and groundwater, the constituents of concern that drive the current remediation program are the previously identified metals: arsenic, lead and cadmium. Regarding other wastes handled at the site and their potential to have left residues after incineration which could pose some risk over and beyond the risk posed by the metals contamination, the Trust has fully evaluated the site documentation, including EPA records, process information, and manifests for shipments to the Site (a review of materials is currently provided on the Trust’s website at http://www.RecastingTheSmelter.com and will be updated as new information is identified and reviewed) and conferred with EPA, TCEQ and former employees on the matter. We additionally conducted additional sampling and testing in all areas where the former employees indicated concerns. We have also reviewed and commented previously regarding both enhanced natural and man made radioactive materials and noted that many radioactive materials occur naturally and are present everywhere and that there is no evidence of improper handling of radioactive materials at the Site.

    Given the many investigations performed at the Site, the close oversight by TCEQ and EPA and the review of all available information and data by the Trust team, the conclusion is that the chemical characterization of the site is adequate and the proposed plan for the cleanup of the Site is protective of both human health and the environment.

    The current cleanup standard for the plant site is Commercial/Industrial, which was previously determined by TCEQ. Only future development that is consistent with commercial / industrial use is allowed in the plant site. This precludes schools, daycare facilities, extended care facilities, residential uses and hospitals from being built on the Site.

    Additionally, as you may be aware, in 2010 the City of El Paso commissioned a development study of various parts of the City, including the former ASARCO site from the city planning firm Dover Kohl. The development study included a community interaction phase that solicited input from the community regarding their vision for the future of the former ASARCO property. The Dover Kohl study recommended that the former ASARCO site properties west of I-10, i.e., the primary plant site and the area between Paisano Drive and the Rio Grande formerly called Smeltertown, would be zoned for commercial/light industrial use. Again, these properties are not zoned for residential use.

    However, the former ASARCO properties east of I-10, which were not part of the plant site but did have wastes disposed on them, potentially could be utilized for residential uses if the properties could be cleaned up to residential health and safety standards. The Trust is currently investigating the extent of contamination on these properties and the cost of cleaning them up to residential standards. Based on the findings of the investigation, the Trust will make a decision as to whether these properties could be developed as residential. As we have in the past, the Trust will confirm with TCEQ and EPA the desired uses for all of the properties and will announce its decisions via the Trust’s website and the media.

  • The future for ASARCO

    The following is an email from Tony Tome to the Site Trustee, Roberto Puga. Mr. Puga’s response is bolded.

    Dear Mr. Puga,

    Just wondering what is the future for the ASARCO’s smeltering site. Would this site be shutdown or rebuilt for future production?

    Thanks for your help.

    Tony Tome

    Mr. Puga’s response:

    Dear Mr. Tome,

    The smelter infrastructure has been demolished and removed from the site.

    Once the environmental clean-up of the site is completed in about 2015, the site will be redeveloped consistent with the City of El Paso’s Master Plan document. The City’s Master Plan calls for a mixed use of commercial/retail/light industrial on the former smelter property.

    Thank you for your interest in the project, and don’t hesitate to contact me with further questions.

    Regards,
    Roberto Puga

  • Email regarding zoning at the Site

    The following is an email from Heather McMurray to the Site Trustee, Roberto Puga. Mr. Puga’s response is bolded

    Mr. Puga,

    I plead with you, to examine your conscience, your faith and values as a human-being: do not let children grow up on the old Asarco site. Tell the community the truth.

    According to the Federal Dept. of Justice/EPA Asarco sent the stuff here to be incinerated for the almighty-dollar. Mexican American children, the elderly and the ill were deliberately sacrificed for profit.

    Someone sent secret hazardous wastes to Asarco El Paso for incineration during the 1990′s knowing it would hurt us.

    Please let the communities know that the TRUST is not responsible under its Asarco-Bankruptcy-Contract for addressing any of what Asarco did between 1991 and 1998. That our region has been environmentally sacrificed to materials more toxic than arsenic if inhaled or swallowed. That you and the Trust are not required to address that problem. Paving over the Asarco site will not make it safe.

    thank you,
    Heather

    Mr. Puga’s response:

    Dear Ms. McMurray,

    Thank you for your continued interest in the remediation of the former ASARCO site.

    As you may be aware, the City of El Paso in 2010 commissioned a development study of various parts of the City, including the former ASARCO site from the city planning firm Dover Kohl. The development study included a community interaction phase that solicited input from the community regarding their vision for the future of the former ASARCO property. The Dover Kohl study recommended that the former ASARCO site properties west of I-10, i.e., the primary plant site and the area between Paisano Drive and the Rio Grande formerly called Smeltertown, would be zoned for commercial/light industrial use. These properties are not zoned for residential use.

    However, the former ASARCO properties east of I-10, which were not part of the plant site but did have wastes disposed on them, potentially could be utilized for residential uses if the properties could be cleaned up to residential health and safety standards. The Trust is currently investigating the extent of contamination on these properties and the cost of cleaning them up to residential standards. Based on the findings of the investigation, the Trust will make a decision as to whether these properties could be developed as residential. As we have in the past, the Trust will confirm with TCEQ and EPA the desired uses for all of the properties and will announce its decisions via the Trust’s website and the media.

    As to your second point, the Trust was not provided with resources or mandate to address past physical injuries that may have been incurred by any person who worked at the ASARCO plant, and was not provided with resources or mandate to address ASARCO’s “actions,” legal or otherwise, while it owned the site. However, the Trust was tasked with: 1) coming up with the best remedial plan achievable with the money provided by the bankruptcy court to address the environmental concerns and 2) to sell the property according to the appropriate uses allowed by the TCEQ and EPA, in conjunction with consultation with the City of El Paso on the use and sale of the property; the Trust is committed to fulfilling these tasks.

    Regards,
    Roberto Puga
    Trustee

  • Asarco Property on Doniphan Dr. in El Paso, TX

    The following is an email from Gabriel Z. Flores to the Site Trustee, Roberto Puga. Mr. Puga’s response is bolded.

    Mr. Robert Puga,

    I am Gabriel Z. Flores from Reliance Maint. & Testing L.L.C. that has done some business with the Asarco site in El Paso, Tx in the past.

    First of all Happy New Year to you & all at the old Asarco site. Mr. Puga, I am very interested in the property on Doniphan Dr. that holds a Blue building probably used for storage. I would like to to be part of the bidding when the Property becomes available in the Future.

    I am very familiar with the area since I was raised in Smeltertown, and my family lived in the community for over 60 years.

    All my family worked at Asarco since the early 1900′s and my grandfather, my dad, and all my brothers. I am the only one in the family that did not have the privilege to work at Asarco.

    My plans for the property is for my company and also to try to house the Old VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Post 9173, that was formed in Smeltertown in 1949, by Ex employees of Asarco and now also run by sons of those employees myself being a member of the VFW as a Vietnam Veteran. Please send me an email as to the steps I need to take to be part of this process. Again, thank you for everything and I hope I can buy this property to keep the Smeltertown spirit and history alive. We at Smeltertown are very proud to have been a part of this community with its history.

    You may already know that the Christ erected in the mountain behind Smeltertown toward Mexico & New Mexico was built by the Parish and people of Smeltertown, and some family members of this town are still members of the organization that does the upkeep of the mountain and monument.

    Sincerely,
    Gabriel Z. Flores
    Reliance Maint. & Testing L.L.C.

    Mr. Puga’s response:

    Dear Mr. Flores,

    Thank you for your interest in the Trust’s properties.

    Currently, the Trust is concentrating on the demolition and clean-up tasks, and has not listed the properties for sale. I do want to note that the Trust is not planning on subdividing the major parcels of property; The Trust will be looking for buyers interested in acquiring all or most of the property and developing it in accordance with the City’s conceptual vision.

    Any announcements concerning the sale of the properties will be posted on the Trust’s website, which is:

    www.recastingthesmelter.com

    Regards,
    Roberto Puga
    Trustee

  • Question regarding mercury values for water and soil samples

    The following is an email from Heather McMurray to the Site Trustee, Roberto Puga. Mr. Puga’s response is bolded.

    Hello, Mr. Puga,

    Have you seen this EPWU data taken at two sample sites (2006) – one being the old Asarco bridge where storm water from the Asarco site would flow into the canal around the posts at the old bridge.

    Mercury and strontium showed high values.

    We do not know what strontium isotopes were involved. Other chemicals also showed high values.

    Heather McMurray

    Roberto Puga’s response:

    Dear Ms. McMurray,

    Thank you for your continued interest in the ASARCO project.

    The concentrations of mercury and strontium in the water and soil samples attached to your e-mail were compared to the EPA drinking water standards and the TCEQ total soil combined standards for both residential and commercial properties. The sample concentrations of strontium and mercury do not exceed the referenced standards.

    The concentrations of lead and arsenic are the two chemicals in the soil samples that do exceed commercial standards. However, that is not surprising since lead and arsenic are the main constituents of concern that are driving the remedial response. The lead and arsenic around the storm water ponds will be addressed as part of the environmental remedial actions taken at the site.

    Regards,
    Roberto Puga

  • Email Response from Lisa McNiel to the Site Trustee

    The following is an email from Lisa McNiel in response to the Site Trustee’s rationale for delaying the demolition of the stacks.

    Thank you so much for your reply. I do feel better and appreciate the difficult positon that you are in. El Paso can be such a surreal place at times, and I am from here. It is difficult for me as well because Robert is a neighbor, and I run into Karla at various social functions. Nonetheless, for me public safety and future cost to the taxpayer are the issues. Plus, I have to admit that, although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I would prefer the mountain landscape to the smokestacks and believe that would be a better “tourist” attraction (if there are any given the situation in Juarez).

    Once again, thank you for your service to the community, and taking the time to respond to my concerns.

    Lisa McNiel

  • Email Regarding the Stacks Demolition Delay (Trustee Rationale for One-Year Stack Demolition Delay)

    The following is an email from Lisa McNeil to the Site Trustee. The Trustee’s response is bolded.

    Hello Mr. Puga:

    I was very dismayed by your decision to grant an extension for demolishing the stacks and hope that you will reconsider. I have a conflict tomorrow evening and will not be able to attend the meeting.

    One reason why you have not received many emails by the “stacksdown” people is because we did not even know about this new development until we read about it in Sunday’s paper. I check your website frequently, and even now it still says that the stacks are on schedule for demolition in February of 2012. We did not have a chance to orchestrate our own email blast and orchestrated it was. Sunday’s article was also misleading since the reference to public funds and indemnity did not occur unitl the end of a rather lengthy article. Although many of the “prostacks” people are my neighbors and associates, I was distressed to see these private interest groups willing to sacrifice public safety for their cause. Turning the fate of this project that could have long-term financial and public safety repercussions for our community over to a group that does not even have a business plan and is willing to cut costs on the assumption that “that will never happen here” sounds a lot like BP and Hurricane Katrina reasoning. El Pasoans did not think that they needed flood insurance either until Storm 2006. Taxpayers are still paying for that one.

    Please reconsider your extension. Our community is not financially wealthy as a whole. Only a relatively small segment of our community has a lot of disposable income, and we cannot afford to pay for the private sector’s possible failure; it is a risky venture. El Paso is not too big to fail. No one will bail us out when your trust is gone. It will not be a matter of city officials wanting to spend funds; they will have to spend funds to ensure our safety. I find this whole process highly unethical and dangerous to the public welfare–a public opinion poll should not decide a project that still threatens public safety. I know that you care for our community’s safety since you stressed the danger and your commitment to our welfare in the article.

    I have attached a copy of an article that I submitted to the paper which will probably not get published. Still, it does further outline my concerns. (Although I was a bit angry when I wrote it.)

    Thank you for your service to our community. Although I understand and sympathize with the prostacks position of my neighbors, I support your original plan because I believe that your initial plan has the best interests of our community in mind while still recognizing the cultural significance of ASARCO.

    Sincerely,

    Lisa McNiel
    Assistant Professor of Speech
    El Paso Community College

    Roberto Puga’s response:

    Dear Professor McNiel,

    Thank you for taking the time to write to me. Let me say that this issue is probably the most difficult public interface challenge I have yet to face on this project, and I am saddened that our decision has disappointed so many people, including some that have been the Trust’s biggest supporters.

    The rationale for the decision is as follows. From the beginning the Trust has operated by being open and transparent with the public. Everything that we do, the analyses we run, public input we receive are available to all via our website. I have hosted public meetings and have attended meetings coordinated by your elected officials. I regularly brief the leaders of El Paso on the local, state and federal level. I have allowed interested people access to the site and have incorporated public input into our investigations. I have given the media complete access to me and the project.

    The stack issue has been contentious from the beginning. Last year we worked hard to evaluate the stack and provide a cost estimate to keep it up. The resounding consensus from the community was that the stack could not be saved using public funds. However, at the site reuse meetings hosted by the City in the summer of 2010, some people asked for the opportunity to see if a private effort could save the stack. I said at that time that I would wait one year to see if such an effort materialized. As it turned out, I did not hear anything until two weeks ago – long after the year waiting period had run out. I was approached by two gentlemen from the community – Gary Sapp and Robert Ardovino. They wanted a chance to see if private funding could be found to save the stacks. They were able to get about 50 people to voice their support for the delay. Two elected officials, State Senator Rodriguez and Councilwoman Byrd, also wrote to express support for the delay.

    I was posed by an ethical dilemma: either I could say that the year was up and ignore the request, or I could follow the intent of our offer to the community and allow them the time to explore the private option. I choose to follow the intent.

    It should be understood that the bar for the folks wanting to save the stacks is very high. Here are the conditions imposed on the one year waiting period:

    1. There needs to be a legal entity established to take possession of the stacks.
    2. The legal entity must demonstrate the financial strength to undertake ownership of the stacks. (It is estimated to cost approximately $14 million over the long term to preserve and stabilize the tallest stack on the Asarco site; there has been no evaluation of the costs to preserve the shorter stack).
    3. The legal entity must have the ability to indemnify the Trust and the Trust beneficiaries.
    4. The entity must demonstrate that both stacks have the structural integrity necessary to remain on the site. This demonstration must be performed by a professional structural engineer that is licensed to practice in Texas, and the engineer’s report must be stamped.

    These are challenging conditions, especially the technical report, which I believe will increase the cost estimate.

    No decision has been made to keep the stacks; all we are doing is allowing for the public debate and feasibility evaluation to occur. I will promise you that 12 months from now, if these conditions are not met to our satisfaction, the stacks will come down and no further delay will be tolerated.

    One more point, which I think is very important: the site remediation work, which is the primary purpose of the Trust, will continue unimpeded by the delay.

    Sincerely Yours,
    Roberto Puga

  • Question regarding analyzed soil samples at the ASARCO site

    The following is an email exchange that took place 10/6/2011 – 10/18/2011 between Heather McMurray and the Site Trustee. The Trustee’s responses are bolded.

    Mr. Puga,

    Is there any chance for the following, “If the lab is now done with the soil samples, please provide these to the community to a lab of choice, with chain of custody instead of allowing these to be destroyed (this has precedence – we have soil samples archived already from the TCEQ).”

    thank you,
    Heather McMurray

    Dear Ms. McMurray,

    Unfortunately, the Trust cannot comply with your request. As you know, environmental samples only yield valid results when the sampling and analysis are conducted to a rigid and agreed upon protocol. Releasing the samples to other parties after they have undergone analysis is not part of our Quality Assurance/Quality Control protocol.

    Regards,
    Roberto Puga

    Dear Mr. Puga,

    We already have chain of custody soil samples from the Asarco site.

    Please send me the link (or a copy) of your “quality assurance/quality control protocol”.

    “Releasing the samples to other parties after they have undergone analysis is not part of our Quality Assurance/Quality Control protocol.”

    Heather McMurray

    Dear Ms. McMurray,

    The Quality Assurance Project Plan and Field Sampling Plan are Appendices B and C of the Final Remedial Action Work Plan. You can find these documents on the Trust’s website at the following link:

    http://www.recastingthesmelter.com/wp-content/themes/recastingasarco/downloads/site_documents/asarco-final-rawp-with-appendices-04-2011.pdf

    If you would like a hard copy sent to you, we would be happy to prepare one and mail it. Please send my your address if you would like the hard copy.

    Regards,
    Roberto Puga

  • Question regarding stormwater stored onsite

    The following is an email from Heather McMurray to the Site Trustee.

    Dear Mr. Puga,

    Thank you for contacting me.

    The storm water is not suitable for dust suppression — unless the Trust only tests for the chemical-analytes that the bankruptcy-court legally requires and/or the ones that the Trust has added. These do not look for actinide-metals and the low level radioactive waste isotopes — even though we know that the material went to the smelter, that it removed LLRW from the process water, and we have repeatedly asked for the data.

    That storm water requires a pass through a Distillation unit that is rated to remove LLRW.

    Please send me a picture (jpg) of the data-sheet(s) showing the max-daily 24-hr rain events. I live 3 miles from the asarco site and remember this year’s storms.

    Is there a rain collection cylinder at the Parker Brothers arroyo?

    We have traced the water feeding the Parker Brothers arroyo. Water from a huge area of the Franklin mts is directed to paved-culverts that meet in a single culvert that travels beneath the IBWC building and then empties to the beginning of the Parker Brother’s arroyo. That is a huge surface area funneled into a single flow. Doesn’t that water flow go immediately into the culvert that travels under I10 and the Asarco property. There must be engineering diagrams for those city culverts showing expected flow from various rain events. The flow in Parker Brother’s Arroyo cannot be simply calculated by the amount of rainfall on site.

    We are concerned about the site runoff that always occurs down the unpaved-road from Asarco to Executive. The storm-water permit never declared water-discharge to Executive Drive. Also, we are concerned about the manholes and culverts on the Asarco site-proper that receive storm water.

    The storm ponds at Asarco were built relatively recently, and water was allowed to accumulate in Rubber Lake until the 500 year flood event that caused the side of Rubber Lake to fail. Although that was shored-up with new soil (still visible from I10) rubber lake’s liner was compromised on that side. I have films of that, and there is also a film posted online. We have never heard if that liner can still-withstand a 100-year-flood-event as specified.

    Visual confirmation for total rainfall is not effective unless you are visually confirming the water-accumulation against the proper measuring-scale (a rain collection cylinder) or can confirm amount of debris carried off (water flow).

    Heather McMurray

    Roberto Puga’s response:

    Dear Ms. McMurray,

    We have not used the stored storm water for dust suppression. All water used for dust suppression so far has been potable city water.

    I have attached the 2011 rain fall total taken from our on-site weather station. The data are from January through September 2011.

    Regards,
    Roberto Puga

  • Question regarding conducting beryllium tests at the ASARCO site

    The following is an email from Heather McMurray to the Site Trustee, Roberto Puga.

    Dear Trustee Puga,

    Hazardous constituents regulated under waste codes K061, K062, and F006 include: beryllium, nickel, lead, silver, cadmium, thallium, vanadium and zinc. These were handled by Asarco Encycle and El Paso.

    Are you responsible under your contract with the Bankruptcy court for conducting tests for Beryllium at the Asarco El Paso site?

    Thank you for answering questions from the public. I was concerned about workers at the site not wearing dust masks; and, if the Asarco stormwater and/or sewer pipes joined the stormwater pipe running the length of the Paisano-IBWC access road (and emptying into the old American canal); but, have not gotten a reply. I realize that you are busy.

    Thank you,
    Heather McMurray

    Roberto Puga’s response:

    Dear Ms. McMurray,

    Beryllium has not been identified as a constituent of concern at the EL Paso Smelter site; this finding is consistent with previous work conducted under TCEQ and EPA oversight, and is consistent with our approved Remedial Action Work Plan.

    The smelter site storm water has one outlet on Paisano Drive which drains directly to the Rio Grande. The site’s storm water drainage system is not designed to drain storm water to Paisano Drive.

    Regards,
    Roberto Puga

  • Site Trustee answers questions regarding the ASARCO 800-ft stack

    The following is an email exchange between Heather McMurray and the Site Trustee. The Trustee’s responses are in bold.

    Please respond about the horizontal crack/fracture at the top of the 800-plus foot-tall-concrete Asarco stack (near top, facing the Cd. Juarez side – visible when wet) ; and, to also let us know where the concrete/debris will be landfilled.

    Also, please identify for us the pipe (below) looking toward the Railroad trestle.

    Does this pipe show up on any of the drainage/pipe diagrams that you have, and what does it drain?

    Thank you,
    Heather Mcmurray
    El Paso, TX

    Dear Ms. McMurray,

    Thank you once again for your continued interest in this project.

    We have contracted with Dykon Explosive Demolition to design the implosion of the two towers. Part of the preparation of the blasting plan is a complete assessment of the current condition of the stacks. Current weaknesses in the stacks will be factored into the blast plan.

    We are planning a public meeting on Thursday November 3, 2011, specifically to explain how the implosions will take place, the engineering evaluations behind the plan and the measures be taken to protect the surrounding community. We have begun meeting with the Fire Department, which has the primary responsibility for permitting the implosions.

    The concrete debris from the stacks will be landfilled on-site in specially designed waste cells. The draft design for the hazardous waste cell can be found on our website.

    Our crews will be walking the canal bank to find the pipe shown on the photograph. Once we locate it, we can answer your question more fully.

    Regards,
    Roberto Puga

    Thank you, Mr. Puga.

    -Heather McMurray

    Dear Ms. McMurray,

    We have located the pipe shown in the photograph embedded in your e-mail. It is located adjacent to the IBWC facility on Paisano Drive. The pipe is connected to a storm sewer inlet on Paisano in front of the IBWC property. Attached please find a series of photographs that show the pipe and the inlet.

    Regards,
    Roberto Puga

    Mr. Puga,

    Thank you for the very quick follow-up. It is much appreciated.

    Does that storm water inlet connect midway to a storm-sewer tunnel traveling beneath Paisano? Or, is that storm inlet the very beginning of that pipe/tunnel.

    thank you,
    Heather McMurray

    Dear Ms. McMurray,

    From our observation from the street, it appears that the inlet leads directly to the pipe terminating at the bank of the canal.

    Roberto Puga

  • Question regarding stack demolition safety

    The following is an email from Heather McMurray to the Site Trustee:

    Mr. Puga,

    The El Paso Times’ photo showing the workers standing next to the Acid-Plant/Contop Stack after it fell did not show the workers wearing dust masks.

    http://elpasotimes.mycapture.com/mycapture/enlarge.asp?image=37840764&event=1325919&CategoryID=34682&picnum=5&move=B#Image

    Were the workers required to wear dust masks?

    Thank you,
    Heather McMurray

    Roberto Puga’s response:

    Ms. McMurray,

    The workers shown in the photograph approached the fallen stack after it had been dropped and the dust had cleared. There was no one around the stack during the drop and immediately after.

    Regards,
    Roberto Puga

  • Trustee responds to email regarding TV station news story about the latest soil sampling results

    The following is an email from Heather McMurray to the Site Trustee:

    I find the following news from the Trust about Asarco El Paso test results incredulous. “If there are decades of pollution contaminating El Paso’s Asarco site, there is no evidence of it …”

    Please provide link to test protocol/chain of custody and results(or copy of same). If the lab is now done with the soil samples, please provide these to the community to a lab of choice, with chain of custody instead of allowing these to be destroyed (this has precedence – we have soil samples archived already from the TCEQ).

    Thank you,
    Heather McMurray

    Roberto Puga’s response:

    Hello Ms. McMurray,

    I was also disturbed by the characterization by the TV station of our soil sampling results.

    Clearly, the site is heavily impacted and contaminated. The Trust released a press statement on Tuesday of this week clarifying that 1) the site is very much contaminated and 2) what are the actual purposes of the soil sample results released on Monday. I have attached the press release for your information.

    [Click to view press release.]

    Regards,
    Roberto Puga

    [The TV station has recently updated their story.]

  • Trustee answers questions regarding the effect of the stack demolition on the American Canal

    The following is an email from Heather McMurray to the Trustee:

    Hello, Mr. Puga,

    We respectfully request a sample of the stack brick from the inside surface of the stack and any hollow ventilation wall; as well as a scraping from the inside of the ConTop metal stack – to be sent for archiving to a scientist of our choice, with chain of custody.

    The stack implosion is not the only source of vibration – the stack-debris landing on the surface of that 80 feet of slag would create an impact. Juan Garza had predicted that the side of the long -storm pond above the railroad tracks and next to that stack was failing; and, showed through photographs that the concrete stack itself has a crack in it – visible when it is wet. Although vibration may not appear to impact that storm pond, it could have an effect on that “dam” above the railroad tracks in a 100 yr flood event. Perhaps you could include an IBWC engineer in the study’s initial design, before it is finished and posted/discussed. IBWC is responsible for the old American Canal that not only feeds over 70 miles of farm irrigation but also now supplies over 60% of our City drinking water.

    There are two American canals locally and one in California. Generally the one beside Asarco that travels five miles to the Franklin Canal is described as the old American canal because it was constructed in the 1930′s. IBWC would have pictures of the construction showing the two-layered bi-directional construction of the concrete panels making up that canal. When the canal was patched-up in 2007 (just before it passed under Paisano to travel along the smelter), the El Paso Inc. photos suggest that they patched it with a single concrete layer (which would respond differently to vibration).

    You will be demolishing the stack during winter. Can the engineers predict the behavior of the old american canal panels after-implosion of the stack when irrigation/drinking water begins flowing in March/April?

    Please let me know if possible where the stack debris will be taken for disposal. I would like to know where other debris has been sold, melted, and/or disposed of, also. Some of that is on the recastingthesmelter site but I do not know what dump is being used for disposal of dirt and concrete debris. Is any of that debris being taken to the Camino Real Dump or the El Paso City dumps?

    The IBWC asked for nearly 30 million dollars way back in 2001 to both repair and remediate the old American Canal. That is almost the entire amount that the Bankruptcy court gave the Trust to clean up all of the Asarco El Paso site.

    In my lay opinion, your Trust should be legally notifying the current Administration’s DOJ Bankruptcy Trustee (for-that-court’s-region in Corpus Christi TX) that her predecessor under the Bush Administration failed to oversight the Asarco Bankruptcy allowing the court to ignore all Asarco’s liabilities from the illegal unpermitted and secret multi-state hazardous-waste disposal operation. In my lay opinion, the court should have awarded your Trust way more monies for the remediation than the Trust got; and, as a result of ignoring the illegal wastes have placed you/the Trust in a terrible situation whereby your contract ignores those poisons, also – and so places our community’s health in perpetual risk.

    Please do not include the signature trailer on email to me that says: “This electronic mail transmittal (“E-mail”) is intended only for the use of the individual or entity to which it is addressed and may contain information that is confidential and exempt from disclosure under applicable law, including, but not limited to, information protected by the attorney/client privilege. If the reader of this E-mail is not the intended recipient or the employee or agent responsible for delivering the E-mail to the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of this E-mail communication is strictly prohibited.”

    All my work is for the public good and not for private gain; and, I reserve the right to disseminate your email to the public if necessary. I appreciate your help.

    Thank you,
    Heather McMurray

    Roberto Puga’s response:

    Dear Ms. McMurray,

    Thank you for your continued interest in this challenging project.

    The Trust does not allow private parties to collect samples on its properties. The Trust does willingly cooperate with the regulatory agencies overseeing the work (TCEQ and EPA) and certainly allows them access for observation and sampling as they find necessary. I suggest that you run your request for sampling through them.

    The IBWC is part of the large group of agency stakeholders that we are coordinating the stack demolition with; in their case specifically regarding the canal. We will make sure that they understand the results of our studies and that they be allowed to provide input.

    The concrete debris from the stack will be disposed of on the site. Metal debris such as rebar will be recycled.

    The Trust was funded with $52,000,000 for the clean-up of the site. I have been able to augment that amount by the sale of various site assets such as rail lines, the oxygen plant, and scrap metals. There is no more money available from the ASARCO settlement.

    The trailer at the end of our e-mails is meant solely for someone who gets the e-mail in error. You, as the main correspondent, have every right to use and distribute the e-mails as you see fit. Additionally, as you are aware, our correspondence with you is posted on the Trust’s website and is therefore in the public domain.

    Regards,
    Roberto Puga

  • Question for the Site Trustee from Heather McMurray

    The following is an email sent from Heather McMurray to the Site Trustee, Roberto Puga:

    Hello,
    Has an engineer studied the effect of the proposed-demolition-charges for the Asarco stack(s) on the concrete-panels of the old american canal right next to those stacks?

    The panels are warping and very old – one panel failed in 2006-7 and many others along that stretch have problems. The canal is over 80 years old.

    This canal carries 60% of our drinking water and all the irrigation water for over 70 miles of irrigation system. Any cracks or failures of the canal next to the demolition (or the vibration from the stacks falling on the ground) would allow the toxins just beneath those panels to enter the canal.

    If a study has been done, I would like to be allowed to view a copy. If not, then the IBWC should be allowed to comment on the demolition’s possible effects to their water system (including the American Dam) before the demolition begins in 2012.

    thank you,
    Heather

    Response from Roberto Puga:

    Dear Ms. McMurray,

    Thank you for your question. We have begun the planning and engineering for the stack demolition. We envision that the stack demolition will occur in the first quarter 2012.

    One of the first engineering tasks is a ground vibration study that will look at resultant ground motions from the stack implosion and their potential effects
    to exisitng structures on and adjacent to the ASARCO site, including on-site buildings, rail tracks and of course the All-American canal. The study’s findings will be discussed face to face with representatives of the IBWC. The study will also be posted to the Trust’s website. We anticipate that the study will be availble to the IBWC and the website in about 4 to 5 weeks.

    Regards,

    Roberto Puga

  • Storm Water Discharge Analytical Results 2011

    The following is an email sent from Heather McMurray to the Site Trustee, Roberto Puga:

    Hello, are there any results for 2011? I can only find results from last year posted. We have had a lot of rain recently.

    Storm Water Discharge Analytical Results

    • July 26, 2010
    • February 16, 2010

    Response from Roberto Puga:

    Dear Ms. McMurray,

    Thanks again for your continued interest in the ASARCO project.

    The plant site has received approximately 1.9 inches of rain this year, with a maximum daily amount of 0.16 inches of rain observed in July. This rainfall has generated approximately 500,000 gallons of storm water collected in lined ponds on the plant site. The storm water is currently contained in Pond A of the storm water system. The storm water system can hold approximately 8 Million gallons of water. The Trust is currently evaluating if the water is suitable for reuse on site for dust suppression. Since the ponds are approximately 10 percent of capacity, there are currently no plans to discharge the storm water. If the water is discharged to the storm water system an analytical sample will be collected and analyzed prior to discharge to ensure the water meets the discharge limits.

    In addition to the storm water stored onsite, storm water is also sampled, when present, in Parker Brothers Arroyo. Based on site history, the amount of rainfall required to generate storm water flow in Parker Brothers Arroyo is approximately 0.25 inches of rainfall in a short period of time. Based on the rainfall totals observed on site this year, a daily maximum of 0.16 inches, and confirmed with visual observation, no storm water flow has been generated in Parker Brothers Arroyo; therefore, no storm water sample has been collected. When storm water samples are collected on site the results will be posted to the project website (www.recastingthesmelter.com).

    Regards,

    Roberto Puga

  • Decontamination Process at Former ASARCO Smelter Site


    Former ASARCO Smelter Site Decontamination Process

  • Demolition work at the Site has now recommenced

    11 JUL 2011

    Demolition work at the Site has now recommenced after a Root Cause Analysis regarding the small fire on July 7th. Corrective measures, including additional training sessions, have been implemented. Additionally, OSHA came on site and conducted an investigation. All questions were answered and the investigation is now closed. Please click here to view the Incident Report.

  • Questions on Asarco Demolition

    The following is a question-and-answer exchange in emails sent from Andrea Tirres to Elizabeth Schell:

    1. What are the days when structures will actually be demolished? What dates are expected to be the heaviest construction dates in terms of demolishing structures?

      • Demolition activities will take place over the next 12 months. Active structural demolition will vary from week to week, but some of the largest structural demolition on site (i.e. the bedding building and two large concrete stacks) will take place towards the end of the demolition schedule. Additional public communications will be made prior to demolition of the two concrete stacks, which are slated for demolition in the first quarter 2012.
    2. Are there any tips for residents to minimize the contaminants that will undoubtedly be carried through the air and that will settle in yards, roofs, and windows?

      • We appreciate your concern; however, we do not anticipate additional constituent transport due to demolition activities. There is a fence line dust monitoring program in place at the site to verify that site activities are not resulting in additional impacts to area residents. Data collected as part of this monitoring program can be viewed on the project website (www.recastingthesmelter.com).
    3. Who would I contact at the EPA local office (or elsewhere) to find out about more tips for residents in minimizing exposure? The EPA and TCEQ agency contact information is listed below:

      • Charles A. Barnes, Enforcement Officer, Environmental Engineer
        US EPA Region VI
        1445 Ross Ave, Suite 1200
        Dallas, TX 75202
        Barnes.Chuck@epamail.epa.gov
        T: (214) 665-6535
      • James Sher, TCEQ
        P.O. Box 13087
        Austin, TX 78711-3087
        JSHER@tceq.state.tx.us
        T: (512) 239-2444
    4. Will schools be alerted to these heavy construction days so that they keep children indoors?

      • As previously described, demolition activities are not anticipated to result in additional constituent transport off-site. Therefore schools will not be notified. Additional public communications will be made prior to demolition of the two concrete stacks.
    5. I do still have a question regarding the chart that shows the measured pollutants by month. As I mentioned earlier today, it looked like there were 22 data points for the month of March. What do these 22 data points represent? Is each data point representative of a day in the month? If so, do the data points represent the same day for each month?

      • Each data point on the graph represents the average dust concentration for that work day, at that location. Since we did not work on weekends in March, the graph includes data points for Monday through Friday. On occasion, a monitor may malfunction and not report data. The graph does not include data points for days when equipment malfunctioned.
      • We provide the graphs for public reference on the website as a summary of our dust monitoring results. However, our field team reviews the data real time during the work day and evaluates our dust suppression efforts continually based on visible observations, fence line monitor data, wind speed and direction, and potential off-site sources of dust.

  • Final Comments from Juan Garza to the Site Trustee

    Mr. Puga,

    Your team is top notch, many times the ones performing the work are those that don’t get the information, barriers which cause communication disconnects are due to issues such as, language, time management, or improper procedures.

    You continue to have my support for your efforts at the site.

    Thank you for making safety a priority.

    Juan Garza

  • Questions for the Site Trustee from Juan Garza

    The following is an email sent from Juan Garza to the Site Trustee, Roberto Puga:

    Mr. Puga,

    In the most recent news event several items for safety have come to mind. Hopefully you have considered them.

    1. Most deconstruction / demolition activities the use of a Class “D” fire extinguishers should be made readily available.
    2. Malcom Pirine should use a portable XRF machine to spot test all metal components scheduled for demolition/welding removal.

    The system can earn you money, due to the fact that some scrap metal values like titanium may earn a better return.

    Finally – in your site safety plan, creating a smoking area on the job site may produce a increase of blood lead levels in smoking workers. TDH had a smoker study which showed that an increase background level of lead present in the ambient environment. The tip of the cigarette caused the particles in the air to violates from a particle size about 100 micron to a smaller size 10 microns – which are in the respirable scale. Thus easily absorbable by those workers who smoke in a lead contaminated environment.

    Please be advised that your site work is encouraging and I ask that your group consider working forward with due diligence in safety.

    Juan Garza

    Response from Roberto Puga:

    Dear Mr. Garza,

    Thank you very much for your constructive input.

    I have ordered a complete work stoppage at the site, and have had the corporate Health & Safety Officers of the two companies working on the dismantling activities commence a Root Cause Analysis Investigation of this incident. They will be looking to see if 1) any standards protocols, such as the ones you mention, were not followed or not followed correctly and 2) whether new protocols need to be put in place.

    Smoking is not allowed in any of the work areas. However, I will ask the Health & Safety Officers to look to see if this policy needs to be emphasized.

    Thank you for your encouragement, and be assured that we will not restart work until I am satisfied that our Health and Safety system and its implementation are correct.

    Best Regards,
    Roberto Puga, Site Trustee

  • Questions for the Site Trustee from Heather McMurray

    The following is an email sent from Heather McMurray to the Site Trustee, Roberto Puga:

    Ms. Schell,

    Please do not play the community for being fools. That Pirnie document did not include all Encycle documents – left out the illegal wastes — left out ALL the manifests regarding that.

    That was brought to the attention of the EPA in Dallas.

    Your contractors also did not warn the community yesterday during the ASARCO fire about the dangers within that black billowing smoke from the illegal-secret chemicals caked onto those metal conduits from years of Asarco’s illicit activities.

    Why not??

    thank you,

    Heather McMurray

    Response from Roberto Puga:

    Dear Ms. McMurray,

    Thank you for your continued interest in the ASARCO Smelter project.

    The document referenced in your question did contain and evaluate all of the relevant Encycle documents posted on the EPA Region 6 website, in total 2176 pages that included 300 manifests of wastes that were shipped illegally to El Paso. We augmented that with one additional manifest we found at the site. This represents all available documentary information on the illegal wastes sent to the smelter from Encycle. We had extensive discussions with EPA Region 6 to make sure we had all available Encycle information for our report.

    Regarding yesterday’s incident, we contacted EPA, TCEQ and OSHA about the incident. I have ordered all work stopped until we have completed our Root Cause Analysis investigation and I am assured that it is safe to resume our work. The unit that burned was part of the water treatment plant at the site, which was not among the process units at the smelter that came in contact with materials to be smelted. The black smoke seen was caused by a fiberglass access grate on the unit that caught fire.

    Sincerely,

    Roberto Puga, Site Trustee

  • Questions from Heather McMurray

    The following are questions sent from Heather McMurray

    Ms. Schell,

    Have the proposed contractors been notified about the presence of unknown illegal toxic wastes onsite?

    Has the matte been fully analyzed for all potential hazardous metals including actinides? Why/why not?

    thank you,

    Heather McMurray

    Response from Elizabeth Schell:

    Dear Ms. McMurray,

    Thanks you for your continued interest in this project.

    Both of our contractors for the project, Malcolm-Pirnie and ERM, are fully briefed on all information about the site processes, both legal and illegal. As a matter of fact, Malcolm-Pirnie has prepared a comprehensive report on the legal and illegal processes that occurred at the site; it is very thorough and includes a discussion of every document found about the Encycle materials brought to the site. You can find the report at:
    http://www.recastingthesmelter.com/wp-content/themes/recastingasarco/downloads/site_documents/Review-of-ASARCO-El-Paso-Smelting-Processes-Report-FINAL.pdf.

    Regards,

    Elizabeth Schell

  • Questions for the Site Trustee from Raymundo Aguirre of the El Paso Tribune

    The following is an email sent from Raymundo Aguirre, a reporter from the El Paso Tribune, to the Site Trustee, Roberto Puga:

    Hello Mr. Puga!

    My name is Raymundo Aguirre. I am writing a news story dealing with the ASARCO properties and hoped you could answer a few quick questions.

    1. Do you have an estimate for how soon the properties affected by contaminants could be ready for redevelopment under the Connecting El Paso Plan?
    2. When will the smokestacks come down?
    3. Will any of the buildings be kept as historical sights?
    4. How about the cemetery by Smeltertown?

    Thank you for your time.

    Raymundo Aguirre
    Reporter| El Paso Tribune

    Response from Roberto Puga:

    Hello Mr. Aguirre,

    Please see below for answers to your questions:

    1. We have a 5 year schedule estimate for the remediation activities. We are currently in year 2, so, we should be completed in 2014.
    2. The smokestacks will be demolished in approximately 12 months, February 2012.
    3. Two to three historical buildings will be preserved. The buildings include the administrative building, the power house building and perhaps one other (based on its condition).
    4. The Smelter Town Cemetery is owned by the Diocese of El Paso; they are responsible for its upkeep and access.

    Please don’t hesitate to contact me with other questions.

    Regards,
    Roberto Puga, Site Trustee

  • Question from Rich Williams to the Site Trustee

    The following is an email sent from Rich Williams to the Site Trustee, Roberto Puga:

    Robert- I would ask that my submission of questions below be posted on the “Recasting The Smelter” blog site with responses from the Trust. If this is not posted then I will plan to ask these questions in the next available public forums where you will be speaking, so please be prepared to address these questions.

    I am curious why the Trust is in a hurry to rezone the property to El Paso’s optional Smart Code Zoning and why the City of El Paso is the actual applicant for this rezoning application with the cost of the application and site plans being spent by the city with their new-urbanist consultant? I say “in a hurry” because the rezoning application was rushed to the City Plan Commission in a specially scheduled meeting in December 2010 before the normal survey plans were even completed to be provided with the application. This rezoning activity is not on the listing of current activities on the web site which makes this “secretive” involvement with the city highly suspect.

    Because the potential use of the property for future development is several years from now it seems completely unnecessary to have the rezoning being rushed before any of the demolition has even started and before all of the environmental investigations and remediation are completed. The Smart Code zoning would prohibit either the east or west sections of the property from being utilized for a single use such as manufacturing which might well be the best use and could bring the highest price for the land. Because of the toxic waste which will remain on the site with ground water monitoring required for 400 more years, because parts of the property cannot have residential or public buildings due to the contamination and particularly because of the highly valuable rail access available to the property, it seems that a commercial or clean industrial user might be ideal and this could afford some great future employment possibilities for the community. So why rush this restrictive rezoning now? Clearly the city would accommodate a rezoning to a potential purchaser when one is identified years from now.

    Doesn’t the Trust have a legal obligation to the public to obtain the highest possible sale price for the land? If yes, then why rush now to restrict the potential use of the land with a Smart Code zoning? Doesn’t the EPA and also TCEQ have oversight responsibilities over the Trust in all matters? If so, have these two agencies specifically and independently approved the rezoning from Industrial to Smart Code and how can the city have legal standing to be the applicant for rezoning at taxpayer expense? Isn’t this rezoning a breach of the public trust because it will limit the potential usage of the land and therefore potentially reduce the value of the land? Is the city using some type of influence or leverage to force the Trust to rezone to Smart Code and to do it now?

    It is normal for commercial property to be sold contingent on the purchaser obtaining the zoning designation needed for their intended use and operations, so why is the Trust not waiting for the highest bidder for the property to then obtain rezoning if needed at the time when a purchase contract is executed? It seems improper if not illegal for the Trust to be obtaining Smart Code zoning for the property which would restrict the east or west portions from having a single use (such as an auto manufacturing plant). It also seems improper for the Trust to be working with the city to this end when the Trust is under direction of a Federal Bankruptcy court order and accordingly responsible to all Americans and not responsible to the city of El Paso or its officials. As I read the charter for the Trust I did not see any obligations or authority established for the Trust to limit or direct the type of future use of the property… just to obtain the best possible sale price in the public marketplace.

    Richard Williams
    El Paso, TX

    Response from Roberto Puga:

    Dear Mr. Williams,

    Thank you very much for your interest in this challenging project.

    I can not answer in any way for the City of El Paso. I can provide you with the Trust’s perspective in these matters.

    The Trust has two objectives:

    1. Implement a remedy to the site’s environmental issues that is protective of human health and the environment; and
    2. Dispose of the properties.

    There is a high degree of latitude that I am allowed in achieving the two objectives.

    Currently, my main focus is the environmental clean-up. However, I have spent a considerable amount of time during the last year speaking to the public, and garnering a sense of the importance of this site to the El Paso community. It was clear to me immediately that the site’s future merited input from the community, and I pledged to assist the City in its plan to get public input for the development of the site and provide the resources to manage the public process and craft a master plan.

    Aside from fulfilling my pledge to incorporate public input into the redevelopment thinking, the process freed up much needed Trust resources to concentrate on the clean-up. In the end, I believe that the City’s process has delivered a comprehensive and varied use plan. The City providing the rezoning application is also a positive for the Trust. Once the remediation is complete in about four years, the Trust can market the properties effectively, and if conditions change or the El Paso market cannot yield the use desired, the Trust has the option marketing the properties for other uses and rezoning if necessary.

    Please don’t hesitate to contact me with other questions.

    Regards,

    Roberto Puga
    Trustee

  • Where are the most recent Storm Water Discharge analytical results?

    Question emailed from Heather McMurray:

    Where are the most recent Storm Water Discharge analytical results? Currently there are only results from February and July 2010.

    Response from the Trust:

    Dear Ms. McMurray,

    Water from the site is accumulated in the retention ponds and is only sampled when one of the ponds starts to reach capacity. The storm water accumulation depends on the weather and we maintain pond water levels to handle seasonal storm events. Because of the overall low rainfall only a few sampling and discharge events may occur during the year. All storm water analytical results are currently posted on the Trust website.

  • End-of-year update questions on the Asarco site from Diana Valdez of the El Paso Times

    The following is an email from Diana Valdez of the El Paso Times to the Site Trustee, Roberto Puga:

    Hi:

    I’m working up a short story for an update to run this weekend on the Asarco site. Would you or your designated representative please respond to the following questions:

    1. What is the status of the work on the El Paso site project?
    2. What has been the most difficult part of the work so far?
    3. How many people from the community have you all heard from that have provided suggestions and recommendations? How much longer will this process last?
    4. How much has been spent so far on the project (approximately)?
    5. What’s first on the schedule for January 2011?

    Thanks

    Response from Roberto Puga:

    Hello Ms. Valdez,

    Status: We have stabilized the site and right-sized the utility usage. We have completed the drafting of our management plans, and are currently finalizing them. We have completed an inventory of assets at the site, and have been actively marketing them. We have completed a survey of all of the trust properties. We have removed the copper matte and concentrate from the reverb and contop for recycling.

    Most Challenging: I think our interaction with the community has been the most interesting and challenging part of our job so far. We are proud of the work we have done in informing the community and integrating community input.

    Community Input: We have gotten input from many different stakeholders, including El Paso elected officials at the federal, state and local levels, community activist groups, federal and state environmental agencies and private citizens. The forums for these interactions have been one on one meetings, public meetings, the blog on our website, posting of our management plans for public comment and polls run on Asarco questions by the El Paso Times. We will continue to accept and respond to community input throughout the project.

    Expenditures: We have spent about $1.5MM so far. We expect next year’s expenditures to be substantially more (greater than $10MM).

    What’s Next: We are beginning the demolition phase in the first quarter 2011. We will also be designing and installing the waste cells in 2011. We hope to be substantially completed with demolition in 2011.

    Please don’t hesitate to call me with any questions or comments (714-388-1802).

    Regards,
    Roberto Puga

  • Site Trustee Responds to Emailed Questions from Heather McMurray

    Trustee responses are in bold.

    Dear Ms. McMurray,

    Thank you once again for your continuing interest in this very challenging project. We have been researching and compiling responses to your previous questions. Your questions and our responses are below; your questions appear in black font and our responses are in bold.

    Mr. Puga:

    Current research by M.D.’s (2009) show significant radon contamination throughout El Paso – heavily associated with the dirt outside of homes, and they recommend clean-up. The levels are very significant. It is very interesting that you state “El Paso County has low radon potential” when the medical doctors are finding radon to be a huge problem here.

    Response: As we pointed out in our previous response and as described in the paper referenced, radon is naturally occurring. Radon is a recognized concern in homes in some areas of the country. The Asarco plant area is a commercial / industrial site and since no residences are present on the property, radon is simply not a constituent of concern to be measured. The paper you are referring to which is by Dr. Irina Cech and others from the University of Texas titled: Factors Contributing to Elevated Indoor Radon in the Paso Del Norte Region of the Texas-Mexico Border: Information for Physicians published in the in the Southern Medical Journal, July 2009 – Volume 102 – Issue 7 – pp 701-706 discusses the issue. Notwithstanding the discussion in the paper relating soil radon to levels in homes, the fact is that both EPA and the State of Texas rate El Paso County as having low overall radon potential. While the paper gives cause to consider the matter in a broader public health forum, plainly stated, there is simply no linkage between natural radon levels discussed the paper and the smelter operations that warrant additional investigation.

    We already know from the EPA that El Paso TX had the highest Beta Radiation levels in the nation just before Asarco El Paso shut down in 2/99. Mr. Bill Luthans asserted that this was “naturally occurring radiation” (or “NORM”/”TENORM”) and said it was not a problem – but could not provide data to back-up his statement that the radiation was not a problem.

    Response: We are unaware of any information regarding high beta radiation levels in El Paso during the 1998-1999 time period that you refer to. The EPA maintains a series of monitoring stations which record radiation levels in air, water and precipitation throughout the country and radiation monitors in El Paso have operated continuously between 1981 and 2010. EPA data for the time period between June 1998 and June 1999 show no anomalous gross beta radiation readings. The only significant beta readings in El Paso as well as in other locations in the US occur between March and June of 1986 which corresponds to the Chernobyl nuclear accident in Russia.

    To the extent we can comment on Mr. Luthans response, we do not believe that any sort of beta radiation can be attributed to the El Paso smelter given the nature of the mineral concentrates sent to the plant for smelting. To clarify, NORM is essentially natural uranium, thorium and potassium that is present in trace amounts in all rock, soil, water and air. These elements are present from the time the Earth was created and over time, decay and change into “daughter” products, some of which are radioactive (i.e. radon), others of which are stable or non-radioactive. Processing can “Technologically Enhance” NORM and create “TENORM” under certain chemical conditions. We know TENORM occurs in copper mining and leaching operations in Arizona and given this fact, we carefully reviewed the study by EPA produced in 1999 on this subject and reviewed additional data sheets from mining companies producing concentrates. Beta radiation issues are not reported in this study. To the extent of our information, given the nature of the smelter feed and the level of documentation on the subject, we do not believe that the concentrates processed at the plant could result in elevated beta radiation, TENORM or other radioactive materials above any regulatory limits. For further information on natural radioactivity see this link (http://www.physics.isu.edu/radinf/natural.htm).

    You are incorrect to state that “Radon gas, which is a naturally occurring substance, is not measured using XRF methods”. Radon is an element that appears from radium decay, and can be detected with many different methods. It is radioactive and hazardous to our health.

    Response: It is correct that radon can be measured a number of different ways. However, as we stated previously, radon gas is not measured using XRF methods. Methods to measure radon under field and laboratory conditions which are documented by EPA may be found at the EPA’s website. http://www.epa.gov/radon/pubs/device_protocols.html. XRF methods are not included in this list.

    You did not provide any links or documents showing any XRF data from ASARCO. In fact, Asarco El Paso refused to allow XRF technology to be tested on-site) to determine what chemicals have been left here by the nearly ten years of illegal, untracked, incineration of both military and industrial wastes for profit by Asarco El Paso.

    Response: The Asarco site has been extensively investigated and the results from the various site investigations which include the analytical results for metals done by XRF methods may be found at the TCEQ website. These results are included in the attachments and appendices to the investigation reports. See the following website: http://www.tceq.state.tx.us/remediation/sites/asarco/downloads

    The metal results in previous site investigations appear to be laboratory XRF results. We should point out that XRF methods are primarily screening tools for detecting metals at semi-quantitative levels and are not used to measure organic chemicals. We cannot comment on Asarco’s use of these instruments since their activities ceased long before the Trust took possession of the property. From a compliance perspective, we rely on laboratory analytical results which are much more accurate and sensitive than analytical field methods such as XRF.

    I would like to know why Project Navigator continues to dodge the question of the illegal chemical residues at the site. I would like Project Navigator to provide data showing the radon, radium and radio-isotope levels at the site. EPA has provided proof now that ASARCO handled radioactive materials.

    Response: As we have stated previously, both the EPA and GAO have reviewed and reported on the Asarco and Encycle matter which addressed the issue of improper waste handling. Enforcement action was taken against Asarco and the matter was settled in 1999. The GAO report and subsequent EPA documents are clear in their findings and conclusions regarding the issue.

    As we discussed above, Asarco, as a large integrated metal producer and refiner obviously handled a wide variety materials including radioactive materials. Given the scrutiny of the site from both state and federal authorities, we do not expect man-made radioisotopes, TENORM, byproducts or residues at levels above their respective natural levels. Our focus is on the identified constituents which include lead, arsenic and cadmium.

    A review of the available records found a December of 1995 letter where ENCYCLE informed the TNRCC that it had received a lead sulfide waste; containing naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM). This letter stated that the NORM was present at quantities less than the regulated level; but it did not indicate the quantity of material or if the material was shipped to the Asarco El Paso smelter.

    We reviewed the letter described and it only states that Encycle received some type of lead sulfide material containing NORM. There is no other information we have found which shows where the material went or the quantity.

    I would like to know who Mary Koks is (you copied her on your reply) at ; and, why you felt it necessary to also copy the TCEQ attorney, Caroline Sweeney on your reply. Are Radon and NORM/TENORM at ASARCO something that Project Navigator is afraid to discuss with the public?

    Response: Mary Koks is the attorney for Texas Custodial Trust and is part of the project team. As part of the project team she is copied on correspondence and reviews product produced by the Trust. Since Trust operates at the direction of the TCEQ, they are copied on correspondence relating to the site submitted by the public. We have been completely up-front with our information regarding issues of contamination at the site including radon as discussed above.

    Details about what chemicals have been left here by the nearly ten years of illegal, untracked, incineration of both military and industrial wastes for profit by Asarco El Paso continue to be kept secret; but, such secrecy/gag is likely illegal now that the Federal Dept. of Justice made the confidential-for-settlement-purposes-only EPA-DOJ-Asarco agreement public domain.

    Project Navigator should honor the intent of this public-domain-release of information; and, also the La Paz Accord JAC committee International Recommendation (to measure background contamination levels). To continue to withhold full disclosure from the public about the poisons remaining around this site is ethically and morally wrong; potentially places the elderly, the young, the unborn and the ill in grave dangers that could be averted; and potentially puts Project Navigator in the sad role of making profits in a fake clean-up at the expense of our future generations.

    Heather Mcmurray

    Response: As we have stated previously, the Trust has been completely transparent in its discussions regarding the constituents of concern at the site and made available to the public all material it has and there is nothing kept “secret” by the Trust. Any other documents not in our possession are available from TCEQ or EPA. For the current cleanup program, the Trust has posted on its website all documents it produces in the form of plans, specifications, presentations and reports. The allegation that the Trust, which is charged with cleaning up the Asarco site, is somehow withholding information or failing to pursue issues relevant to health and safety of the community is simply false and unsupported by its actions.

    The Trust operates under the direction of TCEQ and EPA, however, cross-border matters as they relate to the La Paz Accord are not within the scope of the Trust’s charge. These matters are managed EPA.

    Project Navigator will continue to review information related the Asarco El Paso smelter as appropriate and we will seek the guidance of the regulatory agencies as new information becomes available.

    We believe we have responded to your, and the El Paso community’s, questions openly and honestly. We will continue to do so during the course of our activities at the site.

    Best Regards,

    Roberto Puga
    Trustee

  • Trustee Conversation with Reporter Sito Negron, November 15th

    Trustee responses are in bold.

    Question from Mr. Negron: I’m a bit thick, I think (we don’t agree, by the way). I can’t quite understand the difference between slag that might be a problem and slag that isn’t — for example, the fines pile. Is it the constituents (ie: different slag piles came from different types of metals processing)? Is it the size of the particles (in which case, it seems that the bottoms of each piles would have dust-sized particles from the weight of the pile, and those would present wind and infiltration problems)?

    Response: Slag in the arroyo falls into two main categories, 1.) copper slag and 2.) lead slag. Lead slag is thought to be exposed near the west abutment to the bridge adjacent the main plant and copper slag makes up the remainder the material in Parker Brother’s Arroyo. (Arroyo). The slag in the Arroyo was previously quarried and processed for use as railroad ballast, sand paper grit and other uses by a third party company called Ogleby-Norton. As a result, there are various piles of slag of different sizes that remain on the site ranging from around 8 inches down to sand-sized material (i.e., “fines” pile). Material larger than 3/16 inch has been previously shown to be relatively inert and non-hazardous. “Problem” slag would be materials that can not be recycled, sold or otherwise incorporated easily into the remedy, are very dusty or have metal contents at concentrations above regulatory limits. The fines pile has been evaluated and it appears to have limited reuse value. The fines pile as well as lead slag will either be covered or excavated and placed in an on-site repository. Overall, dust and water infiltration issues are manageable with conventional engineering measures which include capping or removal.

    The Work Plan for the site remediation includes activities to evaluate materials in the Arroyo. Evaluations are planned to determine what slag can be used in embankments or for other construction purposes such as asphalt and concrete. To be useable, the slag typically has to be relatively uniform in size, chemically stable and free from large amounts of fine particles. Following our evaluation, a plan will be prepared and submitted to TCEQ outlining the options available.

    Question from Mr. Negron: I also think I read in the Draft Remedial Action Work Plan that storm water drainage and groundwater conditions ARE a part of the environmental issues to be resolved (for such reasons as infiltration and flow rate), and that the biggest problems on both counts are with the Parker Brothers Arroyo. Is that not true, and if it is, how does that square with what TCEQ replied with and what you’re saying below?

    Response: Storm water drainage and ground water conditions are a part of the environmental issues to be resolved at the site. Since the Arroyo is not impacted with metals at levels that require specific cleanup measures per se, monies were not specifically allotted for cleanup of this area that is otherwise an eyesore. That being said, after looking at the issue, it is clear that storm water, surface drainage from the site and groundwater, if managed together, create a sustainable, long-term solution for the Arroyo that can have tremendous public benefit. We believe that rehabilitation of the Arroyo needs to be considered so that it does not remain an eyesore and that actions taken to control flooding mesh with the other remedial measures considered for the site.

    The remedial options considered by TCEQ focused on surface exposure and groundwater contamination. The secondary-level issues of visual impact, flooding and control of up-stream infiltration could not be reasonably anticipated when the conceptual remedy was reviewed by TCEQ and therefore there are some differences in approach to consider as the site is investigated and design alternatives are considered. Analysis by our engineers suggests that alternatives which incorporate measures in the Arroyo could be implemented that serve to improve the drainage, beautify and increase the value of the property and potentially help reduce long-term cost.

    These alternatives are being evaluated as part of the design and considering the visual impacts, conversion of the Arroyo from its current configuration and unproductive use to possibly a viable public green space, waterway with trails and a bike path, is an opportunity the Trust believes is worth pursuing along with other measures to ensure the remediation is protective and an asset to the community.

    Question from Mr. Negron: From the presentation, it was extremely informative, especially the part about the Rocky Mountain Arsenal portion of the Encycle Waste. I cannot find it online, which I expected to, so the only detail I find in my notes is the narrowing down of the waste to 15 tons of solvents/pesticide between 1992 and 1997. That in the context of the overall waste doesn’t sound like much, but then again …

    Response: The presentation from the October 19, 2010 Community Meeting has been reposted to the Recasting The Smelter website and is available for review. The information related to the wastes shipped to ENCYCLE from the Rocky Mountain Arsenal was based on a review of shipping records. These records indicated that approximately 91.9 tons (in one shipment) of solvent and pesticide wastes and 4200 tons of incinerator brines (or waste treatment leachates) were shipped from the Rock Mountain Arsenal between 1992 and 1997. Given the feed rate through the plant the volume of materials burned is extremely small compared with the total feed to the smelter. Any remaining metal that was not recovered would be only a trace amount incorporated into slag.

    Question from Mr. Negron: Did we know the chemical names? If so, how? Are we depending on the manifests from Encycle, which already had been accused of “sham recycling”?

    Response: The waste manifests were prepared by the organizations shipping the waste, not ENCYCLE. Under the USEPA hazardous waste regulations it is in the best interest of the organization shipping the wastes to provide an accurate description. The chemical names are listed on the manifests using USEPA defined waste codes. These codes are very specific for the chemicals present in the waste and/or the nature of the waste.

    Question from Mr. Negron: Do we know the exact dates?

    Response: The shipping dates are listed on the manifests.

    Question from Mr. Negron: Will it ever be possible to know details: How long did it take to burn (15 mins, two days?); how was it handled between the tanker and the smelter (pumped straight in through a hose? mixed with dirt and sent dripping on the conveyor?)

    Response: Based on the review of the documents on the EPA website, the materials shipped to ENCYCLE were mixed with copper concentrate and other solid materials to render them acceptable to the smelting process prior to shipment from ENCYCLE. The records do not demonstrate that materials were transferred directly from a tanker to the smelter. Given the operating temperature and conditions in a smelter, solvent and pesticide wastes were combusted upon addition to the smelter; they would not be retained in the smelter. However, based on a standard engineering calculation that takes into account the size of the CONTOP smelter, the smelter operating conditions and the average feed rate, it is estimated that the average retention time of concentrate in the smelter was approximately one hour.

    Question from Mr. Negron: How toxic is the material (for example, depending on the substance, I can see a truck full of nerve gas if it ruptured forcing the evacuation of half the city — more or less — I’ve seen trainloads of sulfuric acid, for example, cause massive panic over the threat of rupture)

    Response: The materials shipped to ENCYCLE were incinerator brines (or waste treatment leachates) generated during the destruction of chemicals produced and stored (including nerve agents) at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal. No nerve agents were shipped from the arsenal.

    All of the materials listed as on the manifests have defined toxicities. None of these materials exhibit toxicities approaching nerve agents.

    Question from Mr. Negron: Does it lose the toxicity at temperature, or could the stack for 15 mins or two days been spreading pesticide/solvents tainted smoke, and for how far, since we probably won’t know wind/dispersal patterns for that time period?

    Response: Given the operating temperature and conditions in a smelter, solvent and pesticide wastes were combusted and were not dispersed via the stack. Any potential emissions from the combustion of the solvent and pesticide wastes would not be measureable.

  • Site Trustee Responds to an Email Regarding the Smeltertown Cemetery

    The following post is a response from the Site Custodial Trustee, Roberto Puga, P.G., to an email regarding the Smeltertown Cemetery from Diana Washington Valdez of the El Paso Times.

    Hello Diana,

    The Trust (whose formal name is the Texas Custodial Trust) does not own the cemetery. The cemetery is owned by the Catholic Diocese of El Paso. We have confirmed this via our just completed survey of the Trust’s properties.

    The demolition, remediation and redevelopment of the former smelter should not affect the cemetery. There are no plans to do any remediation at the cemetery.

    As far as we know, the public does have access to the cemetery, but we do not speak for the diocese.

    Thanks for your interest, and don’t hesitate to e-mail me with any other question or comment.

    Regards,
    Roberto

    ————————————

    Below is Diana Valdez’s original email.

    Hi Mr. Puga:

    We’re doing an update on the old Smeltertown Cemetery.

    Will the plans for the cleanup and reuse of the Asarco smelter site affect the Smeltertown Cemetery in any way?

    Have you established that the cemetery property is not on Asarco property?

    Does the Asarco Trust plan to do any more cleanup at the cemetery?

    Will the public still have access to the cemetery?

    Thanks very much.

    Diana Washington Valdez
    El Paso Times

  • UTEP Student Internships – ASARCO Remediation Project

    The Center for Environmental Resource Management (CERM) at UTEP invites applicants for Student Internships with the engineering firm, Malcolm Pirnie, in El Paso to work on the ASARCO Remediation Project. Three internships are available, one each in the following general areas:

    • Demolition engineering, materials re-use, and asset marketing
    • Soil remediation and solid waste management
    • Groundwater remediation and management

    Please click here for additional information regarding these internships.

  • The Site Trustee is scheduled to be in El Paso September 9th and 10th.

    The Site Trustee is scheduled to be in El Paso September 9th and 10th.

  • General Site Questions

    The following general site questions and responses are originated from an email exchange between an El Paso citizen and the Site Trustee in August 2010:

    1. Question: Why was ASARCO using two horizontal, 45,000-gallon cryogenic liquid oxygen above-ground tanks after the plant closed in 2/1999. I witnessed one of those two tanks being trucked into the plant up the long slag-hill behind the plant past the old acid-plant just several years ago.

      What were these tanks being used for after the Asarco site was closed and what description would I give to get those public-records from TCEQ? We have ALL the Asarco records from TCEQ and none describe this operation.

      Response: The tank removed from the site was an out of service tank that contained ammonia. The tank was removed and either sold or transferred to another Asarco facility.

    2. Question: ASARCO had an auction in 2001-2. It was huge, and I have the complete listing of the items sold. My question is, why did ASARCO auction off assets at that time; and why didn’t ASARCO auction off the assets that you are presently going to auction?

      Even though the plant was closed (idled) in 2/99, several of us witnessed a railroad-mounted crane with magnet offloading steel cylinders to the s-w side of the tracks facing Paisano. The large crane could only lift three of these at a time. The cylinders were about as long as the radius of that magnet, completely smooth and shiny with a flat top. The magnet also offloaded many flat square cut pieces of metal.

      Where were those when you got control of the site? If those were not on the site when you got control, then what did ASARCO do with these. Was ASARCO still doing limited smelting of metal from 2/99 to that date using other smaller smelting units. The building between the oxygen plant and rubber lake has a large stack and we witnessed many many blue barrels being unloaded to that facility during those years.

      How would I go about requesting public records for those activities?

      Response: There was no overlap in communication between the Site Trustee and the previous site owners regarding removal of any assets. We have no documentation of these activities and can not speculate on any prior auctions or other activities.

    3. Question: Project Navigator is aware that the EPA proved that ASARCO illegally burned secret hazardous wastes for nearly ten years for profit at the ASARCO El Paso site, and that the chemicals from these activities remain undeclared.

      So, why are the workers doing the rewiring on-site not wearing protective gear? Isn’t Project Navigator concerned for the future health and the safety of these men? When the EPA came here in 2001 to sample the area, those workers wore white hazmat gear (see epgtlo.blogspot.com top page for photo).

      Response: Both the GAO and EPA have fully investigated and reported on the hazardous waste issue involving Encycle and Asarco. In a February 16, 2010 letter to the EPA, several environmental groups presented eight (8) different issues they had with the cleanup of the former ASARCO site. A major request/issue was # 3B: “EPA should make public all information concerning the type, source and amounts of hazardous waste that were illegally incinerated at the facility.” In their May 11, 2010 response the EPA supported TCEQ’s determination that ASARCO was a metal contaminated site and that “EPA has no data that “product” sent by Encycle to ASARCO contained organic chemicals.

      PNL workers fully are trained and informed about any current or potential site hazards and are outfitted accordingly. Workers performing electrical work are not in contact with waste and therefore do not need hazmat gear to perform the work. Additionally, workers have been informed of any on site risks.

  • Storm Water Questions

    The following storm water questions and responses are originated from an email exchange between an El Paso citizen and the Site Trustee in August 2010:

    1. Question: The last week there have been several flash floods in our area, but the Asarco Rubber Lake contains no water, the lower of the two large-lined storm ponds near Paisano is dry and the upper pond only is partially full. Would you explain why these ponds are dry?

      Response: Rainstorms in the El Paso area can be scattered so the Site may or may not receive rain. In early June, all storm water ponds were dry. The site received 1.2 inches of rain in June and 1.21 inches in July. All storm water including water from Rubber Lake is pumped to Pond A for storage so other ponds may be dry. When Pond A is full, water is sampled and then discharged as per the storm water permit.

      On July 20, 2010, Pond A was sampled in compliance with the storm water discharge permit and discharge to outfall SW-5 began on July 28, 2010 at 9:15 A.M. An announcement was posted on our web page and the analysis results can be downloaded, http://www.recastingthesmelter.com/wp-content/themes/recastingasarco/downloads/site_documents/stormwater_results/stormwater_results_07-26-10.pdf

    2. Question: The stormwater pond test results for July show the acceptable yearly-allowable-discharge-amounts. What are the acceptable MONTHLY results (these would be lower, because the pond has not accumulated chemicals/evaporated over an entire year) for discharge to SW-5?

      Response: The sample from Pond A is compared to the Daily Maximum numeric effluent limitation for compliance purposes allowed by the TCEQ in accordance with the Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (TPDES) permit.

    3. Question: Do you have the June stormwater pond test results and what was the date of the last discharge to SW-5?

      Response: There was no discharge of storm water in June of 2010. The last discharge was on July 28, 2010. The results are posted on the Trustee’s website.

    4. Question: Please, for the media-contacts on this email, explain what discharge to SW-5 is. Will this discharge go to the Rio Grande or to the American Canal (also our drinking/agric. water).

      Response: SW-5 is located at the western edge of the Former Asarco plant property and discharges through a culvert below the B.N.& S.F. railroad tracks. The permitted discharge for storm water goes into the Rio Grande, but does not go into the American Canal.

    5. Question: Why is it acceptable to release these chemicals to SW-5 when our drinking water plants are downstream; and, was the Water Utility notified that this pulse of chemicals was coming?

      Response: In the context of the question, “chemicals” are not discharged in the storm water system. Rainwater from the site is collected and is captured in the on-site lined storm water holding ponds. This rainwater is sampled for 12 metals specified in our water permit and these values are compared to the Daily Maximum discharge limits established by the TCEQ. The storm water volume is miniscule compared with the river flow therefore there is no “pulse of chemicals” enters the river. Water that meets the limits set by TCEQ is permissible to discharge and no notification to the water utility is needed.

    6. Question: Why is it acceptable to release these chemicals to SW-5 when (see bolded-items in the stormwater rpt) many of the chemicals exceed the “RL” (recommended limits)?

      Response: In the context of the question, “chemicals” are not discharged in the storm water system. The storm water test results are clearly lower than the Daily Maximum limitation established by the the TCEQ.for our storm water permit. Water meeting the permit limits is acceptable to discharge. The heading ”RL” means the laboratory Reporting Limit.

    7. Question: Why is the stormwater being pumped from Rubber Lake all the way up to Pond-A? When the Trustee is done with the site, will this pumping still occur and who will pay the electrical/maintenance costs for this?? Has any plan been set in place for the next 500 year-flood (like the one from 2006) that nearly collapsed the side of Rubber Lake — and, has that break in Rubber Lake been fully repaired.

      Response: All storm water collected on site is pumped to Pond A for storage. The Trustee will maintain this storm water system through closure of the site. The storm water system that will remain after closure has not been designed yet. Typically any costs for storm water control are typically the responsibility of the property owner.

      The storm water system is maintained to limit impact from flood events and was designed for a 100 year event. The Rubber Lake pond was fully repaired in September of 2006 immediately following the break.

    8. Question: The project navigator Pond A test report from July states:

      Please post the “complete report package” instead of just the summary.

      Response: The complete report from Trace Analysis is now posted on our website: http://www.recastingthesmelter.com/wp-content/themes/recastingasarco/downloads/site_documents/stormwater_results/stormwater_results_07-26-10.pdf.

  • The Site Trustee is Scheduled to Be in El Paso on August 16th & 17th

    1. Trustee Returning

      The Site Trustee is scheduled to be in El Paso on August 16th & 17th. Currently the Trustee has scheduled the following meetings for August:

      • August 16
        • 3:00pm – Meeting with UTEP, Special Collections Department, Discussion on potential donation of historical documents
        • 4:30pm – Meeting with Community Scholars
      • August 17
        • 10:30am – Meeting with TxDOT
        • 12:00pm – Meeting with El Paso Central Business Association
        • 2:00pm – Meeting at UTEP with Dr. Natalicio, President of UTEP
        • 3:00pm – Meeting with UTEP, Trustee is speaking to the Administrative Forum Group
    2. Rail Removal

      The plant rails, rail ties, switches and other track material have been sold to National Salvage for $215,000. The materials will be removed, rinsed on-site, loaded onto trucks and transported offsite for reuse and/or recycle.

      Removal activities will begin the week of August 9th and will continue for up to two months. During that time, it is expected that less than 5 trucks per day on average will be leaving the site.

    3. Asbestos Survey of the Contop and Old Reverb

      An asbestos survey of the Contop and Reverb areas of the plant will begin the week of August 2nd. Texas-licensed asbestos inspectors, AnE Consulting of El Paso, will sample materials that could potentially contain asbestos. The samples will be analyzed and the results will be used to identify which materials will require abatement.

    4. Site Auction Postponed

      The Site Trustee recently announced that the equipment liquidation auction originally scheduled for the week of August 2, 2010 will be postponed. A new date has not been set.

      Mr. Puga explained that more time is needed to value various assets and personal property and to determine which items could bring better returns if sold by direct sale to commercial purchasers. Any money generated by the sale of equipment and salvage items goes directly to fund cleanup and remedial action of the site.

    5. Clarification on El Paso Inc. News Article

      The Site trustee is NOT taking bids for demolition at this time. Currently the bid package is being formulated and a notice will be emailed out to all interested parties if they are registered on the website. Additionally all bid information will be posted on the RFPs/Bids section of the website.

  • Site Auction Postponed

    Roberto Puga, P.G., Trustee for the ASARCO Texas Custodial Trust, announced today that the equipment liquidation auction originally scheduled for the week of August 2, 2010, by Walter Parker Auctioneer, Inc. will be postponed. A new date has not been set. Click here for additional details.

  • Site Trustee Responds to an Email Regarding the ASARCO Stacks

    The following post is a response from the Site Custodial Trustee, Roberto Puga, P.G., to an email from Fr. Thomas Rowland regarding the ASARCO stacks.

    Dear Fr. Rowland,

    Thank you very much for your comment and your interest in this challenging project. The disposition of the stack has become one of the most divisive issues pertaining to the project, and the one I have received the most public input about. So far, the input has been pretty evenly divided between those who want the stack left up and those who just as adamantly want the stack to come down.

    As the Trustee, I have to assure the public that it is safe to leave the stack up. This question must be answered before a decision can be made as to leaving the stack up for aesthetic or preservation purposes. To that end, I have instructed our engineers to analyze the stack for:

    1. Structural Integrity – We are performing both wind shear and seismic analyses on the structures.
    2. Maintenance Costs – We will be calculating the annual cost of maintaining the stack in the future.
    3. Public Health and Safety – We will be determining if the stack presents a long-term exposure risk to the public.

    Only if we get positive answers to those questions can the option of the stack staying up be explored.

    Please follow our progress on our website, and never hesitate to contact me with more questions or comments.

    Warm Regards,

    Roberto Puga
    (Former Altar Boy)

    ————————————

    Below is Fr. Rowland’s original email.

    Dear Sir,

    Thank you for your ASARCO website. Will it is good the industry is gone, I do hope the smokestacks will remain as relics of the by-gone industrial age. They are iconic representations of the El Paso/Juarez area and should remain to as a visual reminder of an era that has come and gone and will never be again. But of course the area can be reclaimed as an artistic park or meeting area of some kind, perhaps open to people on both sides of the border.

    Thank you for your concern. The last thing I want to hear is that the area—smokestacks and all—will be raised and horrid outlet malls will be in their place or some such.

    Sincerely,

    Fr. Thomas Rowland

  • Upcoming Public Design Charrette — June 17-30

    The Site Trustee will be participating in the upcoming charrette process sponsored by the City of El Paso. This charrette will be held in El Paso from June 17-June 30. To view specific dates, times and locations of the design sessions, please click here.

  • TCEQ Response to an El Paso Resident’s Question Regarding the ASARCO Stacks

    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.

    Ms. McNeil:

    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.
    Project Manager
    Office of Compliance and Enforcement
    MC-172
    Tel: 512-239-2444
    e-mail: jsher@tceq.state.tx.us

    ————————————

    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:

    1. 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.
    2. They are part of the skyline. I can’t even respond to this as I think they are an eyesore.
    3. Some people think the stacks have proof that illegal chemicals were burned and they want the toxins analyzed in the stacks.
    4. 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.

    Peggy McNiel

  • Site Trustee will be in El Paso May 19-21 and May 25-26

    The Site Trustee will be in El Paso May 19-21 and May 25-26.

  • The Site Trustee will be in El Paso April 25-28, May 10-12 and May 19-20

    The Site Trustee will be in El Paso April 25-28, May 10-12 and May 19-20.

  • Site Trustee will be in El Paso March 30 – April 1

    The Site Trustee will be in El Paso March 30 – April 1.

  • Site Trustee will be in El Paso March 16 – 18

    The Site Trustee will be in El Paso from March 16 – March 18th. Please contact Roberto if you would like to set up a meeting.

  • The RFP Shortlist is Now Available for Download

    Please click here to view/download the RFP Shortlist. Thank you.

  • The RFQ for an Environmental Engineering and Design Firm is Now Closed

    Please note that the RFQ process is now closed. Thank you for your submissions. We are currently reviewing your submissions and will announce a short-list of bidders to receive the RFP by Friday, February 26th.

  • Request for Statement of Qualifications (RFQ) for Full Service Environmental Engineering and Design Service Vendors

    The Custodial Trustee (“Trustee”) for the ASARCO Smelter Site (“Site”) in El Paso, Texas is engaged in a procurement process for an environmental engineering and design firm to provide services necessary to plan and design site remediation activities in accordance with the requirements of the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ). A RFQ is available for any interested firms. To access this RFQ, please click on the RFPs/Bids portion of this website.

  • Message from Roberto Puga, Site Custodial Trustee

    Recently I was selected to serve as the Custodial Trustee for the former ASARCO Smelter Site, a position that I am both excited and honored to fill. I have been a Principal at Project Navigator, Ltd. (PNL) for over a decade. Since the company’s inception in 1997, our sole mission has been to provide high-quality environmental project management services at large complex projects. We are highly experienced in the assessment and management of programmatic, technical, and business issues that arise on large environmental projects.

    At the former ASARCO Smelter Site, our main objectives will be to ensure:

    • A viable, beneficial final site end use
    • The implementation of a technically rigorous remedy
    • Appropriate management of subcontractors that will be hired to perform the remediation
    • Efficient and objective procurement of project resources
    • Effective project controls and end vision-driven project completion metrics

    This website has been created for the public to have access to the latest project information and updates. The Blog section is for you to post your comments, and always please feel free to send me an email directly (rpuga@projectnavigator.com).

    I look forward to working with you.

    Best Regards,

    Roberto Puga