EPA Administrator in El Paso


By Lindsey Reiser – Multimedia Journalist

EL PASO – The head of the Environmental Protection Agency visited the borderland and said ex-ASARCO workers have good reason to be worried.
“A lot of agony and pain and illness has been left behind, a lot of financial hardship,” said third generation ex-ASARCO worker Daniel Arellano. Even though he’s been diagnosed with leukemia, he said his own health is not his biggest concern; it’s the health of all El Pasoans who could be exposed to hazardous chemicals in our air and water.

“Invisible injury comes 20, 30 years later,” Arellano said. He and the rest of the ex-ASARCO worker group came here to beg the head of the EPA to get more involved with the site cleanup.

“it doesn’t only affect the employees, it affects the community,” said Arellano.

“There’s lots of work to be done there,” said Lisa Jackson, administrator of the EPA. She took a 45-minute tour of ASARCO this morning. Workers have told her they believe hazardous waste was buried in at least five different dumpsites at the plant, sites that they say the trustee has not tested. Jackson says those claims are under investigation.

“Oftentimes when you’re in the middle of a cleanup of a facility that large you find little surprises,” she said.

She said the site and surrounding groundwater have been sampled. We asked her if she’s seen the results of those samples.

“There were certainly lots of maps with lots of testing, but in a 45 minute tour that wasn’t the focus of our work.”

Veronica Carbajal from the Texas Legal Aid wants the EPA to put a halt on all activities and make ASARCO a superfund site.

“That means that the bankruptcy trustee is no longer responsible,” Carbajal said. “The EPA would be the one responsible for hiring everyone who works on the site.”

“Maybe we didn’t save us, but we can save somebody else, somewhere else,” Arellano said.

Jackson says she welcomes the idea of ex-workers showing them where they believe those dumpsites are and having them tested.

We called site trustee Roberto Puga for a comment on the visit and he has yet to respond. Carbajal and several ex-ASARCO workers are traveling to Washington D.C. in two weeks to meet with Jackson’s staff.

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