Head Of EPA Stops In El Paso To Address Environmental Issues

Reporter Darren Hunt – ABC7 KVIA

EL PASO, Texas — The Chief of the Environmental Protection Agency stopped in El Paso to address environmental justice issues Thursday.

And it didn’t take long for the topic to turn to Asarco.

Lisa Jackson is the EPA’s top administrator and a member of President Obama’s cabinet. Jackson spoke for a short time then fielded questions for about two hours during a forum at the El Paso Community College’s Northwest campus. Most of the questions centered around the $52 million clean-up of the Asarco site, which she toured prior to Thursday’s forum.

Some of those attending the forum voiced their concerns to Jackson about the clean-up, including whether the $52 million is enough to do the job right.

It was also brought to her attention that former Asarco employees have identified six different dump sites at the former plant that were used to dump illegal waste. But those sites, at this point anyway, have not been scheduled for testing in the current remediation plan.

“I did hear that from the trustee,” Jackson told ABC-7. “They said that they have been shown those areas and that they were going to focus on making sure they had data. We’ll just look over their shoulder a bit to make sure that we are satisfied as well.”

Jackson was then asked if the EPA was willing to test those sites if needed.

“If we need to spend and do our own testing, we will,” she said, “but I really prefer to just direct the trustee to spend the money to make sure that we are getting the data we need.”

Jackson went on to pledge the EPA’s full involvement in the Asarco clean-up. She added that if at any point the EPA feels it’s necessary to intervene in the clean-up in order for the job to be done right, they will do so, although she prefers that the polluter money be used first.

“We prefer to see the trustee do it,” Jackson said, “with the state and EPA overseeing.”