Asarco arroyo: Hope it can be revitalized

El Paso Times Editorial Board

There’s refreshing news from down under the Asarco slag heaps. Roberto Puga, the trustee in charge of remediating the long-polluted smelter site, thinks he can save an arroyo and make it a greenbelt for a quality-of-life enhancement.

This is another indication that just because there’s ground pollution, that doesn’t mean it’s Chernobyl.

Last week, Ted Houghton, a Texas transportation commissioner, told the El Paso Times editorial board that the Texas Department of Transportation could work with railroads in Downtown. Houghton talked of helping BNSF move out of south Downtown to make way for a possible baseball stadium, arena and retail.

That is also the area, near the Downtown bridges that some envision to be a binational riverwalk.

Long we’ve heard only that it would cost too many millions of dollars to turn Asarco into livable land. And it may turn out that way, at least on acreage between Interstate 10 and Paisano Drive. There’s a century’s worth of copper smelting leftovers both on top and below ground.

On the other side of I-10, the land is less polluted, more adaptable to residential development.

When in its natural state, the Asarco arroyo stretches from 1-10 to the Rio Grande.

Puga said, “Given the vision everyone has for the site, the condition of the arroyo is not consistent. That’s what prompted me to find some way to rehabilitate that arroyo.”

Good. Many will cheer on that effort.

There’s a long way to go before remediation of Asarco land, and possibly railroad land, passes the Environmental Protection Agency test. But the locations are prime for real-estate investment that would be a healthy boost to the El Paso tax base and to the city’s quality of life.

It’s good to know that some people in high positions are working to ensure these properties are not polluted sites forever.