1st Asarco soil-test results revealed

By Chris Roberts \ EL PASO TIMES

The first soil sample results from the shuttered Asarco refinery show no contamination that would require additional remediation actions, said Roberto Puga, who is running the cleanup.

“We are not done with the soil sampling program,” Puga added Monday. “I am not drawing any solid conclusions from this.”

A second group of soil samples is still being analyzed and more sampling is scheduled after the site demolition is completed, Puga said.

The results, posted on a website dedicated to the cleanup, do not provide state or federal standards for comparison, said Verónica Carbajal, an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid who represents former Asarco employees. Carbajal said it will take time to have their experts review the data.

Those former employees, concerned about illegal activity at the site that could have created public health hazards, identified many of the locations that were sampled.

Tests around the former acid plant revealed no lingering acidity in the soil despite reports of spills there, Puga said. One of eight samples in a transformer storage area showed only a trace level of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, a highly toxic chemical used to cool electrical equipment, he said. Samples from a boring at the wastewater treatment plant’s sludge disposal area showed only slag, a smelting byproduct that, over the years, provided a foundation for the refinery, Puga said.

Also tested was the bedding building and unloading area, where former workers said they saw unidentified material in leaky rail cars shipped in for processing or disposal.

Low levels and trace levels of volatile organic compounds, commonly found in such things as solvents and pesticides, were found. One type of semi-volatile organic compound, which can be used to make plastics and other materials, also was found.

But the levels were within the state criteria established for commercial or industrial properties, a report summary states.

Chris Roberts may be reached at chrisr@elpasotimes.com; 546-6136.