Asarco’s Demolition Has Begun

By ABC-7 Reporter Marissa Monroy

EL PASO, Texas — Driving through I-10 near Executive is going to be a different scene soon.

“The landscape is going to change drastically,” Roberto Pugo, the trustee for the former Asarco site, said. “If you look, you see these huge metal tanks, you see huge concrete buildings, and the huge stacks. Slowly over the course of the next 10-12 months, all that will be coming down and essentially you’re going to be seeing a flat piece of property.”

The demolition of the century-old smelter began this week, the beginning of the process to rehabilitate the 400 acres of land. The property and the $52 million Asarco put aside for the cleanup ws put into a trust. That trust has now made more than $10 million through the selling of various metals on the site. Because of the value of many of the metals still on the site, the company in charge of the demolition is paying the trust $1 million to take everything down.

That includes that iconic smoke stack.

“It will be an implosion of the bottom,” Puga said. “So we’ll blow the bottom out and it’ll come down like a big tree.”

That implosion is expected to take place in Feburary 2012.

“Before then, they’ll be a public meeting in which we’ll explain precisely how we’re going to bring it down,” Puga said. “What sort of health and safety procedures we’ll be implementing to make sure dust doesn’t get beyond the perimeter of the property.”

There are already in place a number of safety and health precautions, including wetting down the roads and the buildings currently being demolished to eliminate dust. Crews also monitors workers air quality and the quality of air at different points around the site.

“If the level goes above our threshold, we stop what we’re doing,” Puga said. “we’ll fix the problem, or if we can’t for some reason, if it’s too windy, it’s too dusty we have to stop.”

Two buildings will remain erect, even as everything comes down around them. They include a power plant, just off to the side of the Asarco smokestack.

“It contains what I think is unique electrical equipment from the early 1900s,” Puga said.

The other building includes a yellow adobe building. It was used as the administration building was built 124 years ago.

Puga says the land will be available for redevelopment by about 2016.

“It’ll be a little jarring, however it’s necessary to revitalize this area and go to the next phase of the productive use of this property,” Puga said.

El Pasoans will be able to watch the demolition via the web at later this week.