EPA Head Hears Claims From Ex-ASARCO Workers

Reporter Monica Balderrama – KFOX14

EL PASO, Texas — U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson visited the Borderland on Thursday.

As part of her environmental justice tour she visited two facilities and heard complaints from residents.

One of the biggest complaints Jackson addressed came from former ASARCO workers.

“I was working in one of the acid tanks. I was coming out of the acid tank and I felt my whole left side paralyzed, like I had just come out of the dentist office,” said Patrick Garza.

Garza worked at ASARCO from 1992 to 1999. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis years ago. He believes his symptoms were caused by toxins he was exposed to in the seven years he worked at ASARCO. Garza along with other ex-workers have concerns about the cleanup by a bankrupt trustee.

“We would like to get test and more samples done,” said Garza.

The workers believe there are six areas where toxic waste was buried. They believe some of the most polluted buildings have been dismantled and the components of those buildings are being shipped to area landfills without prior testing.

“I visited the ASARCO site this morning and I took a look for myself, not just the site but the arroyo next to it and there’s a lot of work to be done,” said Jackson.

Jackson said the ex-workers have a right to be concerned. She said the EPA has become involved in the site and will oversee the cleanup.

“We impressed upon them they need to make sure they comply with international and federal laws as they recycle this material,” said Jackson.

But these assurances did not fly for these former ASARCO workers.

“There’s no hope. Someday they will stop the demolition. I know it’s a lot to ask for,” said Garza.