ASARCO Ahead of Schedule; Stack Comes Down Early 2012

By Lindsey Reiser – Multimedia Journalist

EL PASO – The site trustee tells us demolition is ahead of schedule and the smoke stacks could come down as early as February of next year. At that time, I-10 will be completely shut down.If you drive through the ASARCO site today, it looks completely different.

And come February or March of next year, the trademark smoke stacks – which would have cost millions to keep up – will come down like tree trunks.

“All you’re doing with explosives is creating that wedge at the bottom of the stack so it comes down just like a tree trunk does,” said site trustee Roberto Puga. He says they’ll use tons of explosives, so I-10 will have to be shut down. Puga says every step in the remediation of the site has been tedious.

“We deal with each discovery appropriately, either we dig up the soil that’s contaminated, dispose of it appropriately, or we change the areas of the site that need to be capped,” Puga said.

But the ex-ASARCO worker’s group says they’re not testing deep enough into the ground. Just last week, they were invited on site to show the trustee where they believe harmful chemicals were buried and burned.

“This is a hot potato that’s being ignored by our government, by our city representatives,” said Carlos Rodriguez, who worked at ASARCO for more than 28 years.

With the help of Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, former ASARCO employees sent a letter to the trustee outlining their concerns, saying there are toxic chemicals called PCB’s on site. Puga replied, saying if they find any PCB’s, they’ll be disposed of properly.

“He said it was unbelievable, but the real experts are the workers, we have guys that worked in that department for over 50 years,” Rodriguez said. He said they are getting more response from environmental agencies. And even though the city plans on turning the site into a shopping center, neighborhood, and even park, Rodriguez says they won’t stop blowing the whistle until they say their concerns are taken seriously.

“I live 20 miles away from the plant and if I could afford it, I’d move further,” Rodriguez said.

Results from the ground sampling should come back next week. We’ll let you know what those results are.

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