Asarco: It’ll be coming down soon!

El Paso Times Editorial Board

It was so good to hear that dismantling has begun and that official plans for remediation of the land have been printed up and laid on the table.

Such good news.

Maybe this is not going to take years and years — or even a decade or two — to be accomplished after all.

We’re glad officials are already talking about some Asarco land, that’s a good distance from the smelter itself, becoming “residential.”

A tree grows on old Asarco? Yes, believe it or not.

And that land on the smelter site, after being buried by five feet of soil, will also be offered as real estate.

The remains of lead, arsenic and cadmium in the soil — and the slag — are to be scraped up and buried in high-tech landfills on site. Good.

And throughout the demolition process, workers will monitor dust kicked into the air. Thus, it is not expected to “Asarco outside” as some would say when traveling along Interstate 10 back in the old days — or “Asarco” on thousands of El Pasoans attending a Saturday night UTEP football game in Sun Bowl Stadium.

Puga’s seven beautiful words, “It’s really going to change people’s drive,” refers to downing structures … let’s start a list.

Downing an acid plant, acid storing tanks, a cadmium plant … do you know what an antimony plant and a contop are? They’re all coming down.

And what’s still of use will be pressure-washed and trucked off the site. Wanna buy something?

All leading up to a day when both Interstate 10 and Paisano Drive will be closed for a few hours to bring down smokestacks. The big one, the one that screams ASARCO upside its 826-foot side, should certainly be an event of the decade.

The question may well be, so where were you when the one-time reputed-to-be tallest smokestack in the world shook the ground?

We applaud the efforts of Puga and his crew in planning this project with the $52 million Asarco has agreed to pay in remediation fees — and any money Puga can claim by the sale of on-site equipment.

It’s also a plus that the public had more than one opportunity to give input on what should happen once the “change people’s drive” is fully realized.

Asarco had a place in El Paso, back when its location was out in the boonies, not amid the populace on the West Side and UTEP. It offered good jobs at high wages and benefits. Generations of El Pasoans fed their families and sent their children to college with wages earned at the smelter — big industry at the time.

Now Asarco is history, and will truly go down in history as part of what once was El Paso.

Bring it down.

Asarco time line

  • Smelter operations commenced in the late 1800s, providing benefits and good pay for decades.
  • Smelter closed in 1999 when copper prices dropped.
  • City leaders, citing environmental concerns, fought Asarco’s reopening.
  • Recently, Asarco went bankrupt and agreed to pay $52 million for cleanup.

Demolition phases beginning now:

1. Buildings made of metal will be pulled down.

2. Concrete foundations will be jackhammered.

3. Concrete buildings will be leveled using explosives.

4. Contaminated soil and slag will be buried in high-tech landfills on the site.

5. The two smokestacks will be toppled.

6. Five feet of soil will be laid over the main operations area and the land put up for sale (by about 2016).