Save the stacks group running out of time

By Kandolite Flores

EL PASO, Texas —
The battle to keep Asarco continues but the group trying to save it hasn’t said much over the last couple of months and the trustee of the stacks said plans could change.

“Back in December 2009 the plan was to knock the stacks down and kind of have a real fresh beginning to the site,” said Asarco Trustee Roberto Puga.

That was until last November when a group called Save the Stacks was given a chance to come up with a plan to preserve Asarco.

“In November there was a lot of enthusiasm from the group,” said Puga.

Save the Stacks was given a year to come up with a plan to save Asarco but since then they haven’t presented anything concrete.

“I haven’t really heard from the Save the Stack group for a couple of months now and about six months have gone by.

“There’s another seven months or so till November and time is getting very short for them to come up with a viable plan,” said Puga.

KFOX14 caught up with Robert Ardovino, who is leading the group to see where they stand.

“We were a little naive in the loftiness of this. It is really a short time. The year was not enough time. I don’t believe but we’re still optimistic and we’re really trying,” he said.

Puga said at last word the group was working on the first step, “which was to hire a qualified engineering firm to come to the site and look at the stability of the stacks. If there was any improvements needed and how much it will cost for them.”

Ardovino said the group is working with different experts and institutions.

“We know that it’s not going to cost $14.8 million to save Asarco. We’ve spoke to a couple different experts who’ve said that’s just an unrealistic number. Right now we’re kind of hammering out these numbers with people and figuring out when exactly they can come down and look at these things,” he said.

KFOX14 asked why they hadn’t been in contact with Puga.

“The process is now more back of the house, behind the scenes for us trying to line the stuff up. When we approach him with something, we have to have something to approach him with,” said Ardovino.

But Puga said if things don’t start to fall into place soon, plans could change.

“Save the Stack group has to show that their vision is really possible. If not we are going to have to have a talk about the reality of the situation,” said Puga.

If not, Asarco could be gone as early as next summer.

“From the time that I give the go ahead because of all the planning and permitting and coordination with the various federal, state and local agencies necessary, it would probably be between four to six months before we actually bring them down,” said Puga.

But the stacks won’t be completely wiped out. Puga said he has made a proposal to save a part of the large stack along with two of the historic buildings on the Asarco site to be used as sort of a museum.

Ardovino said the group doesn’t think that’s enough and is going to do its best to save to whole site.

“We have to preserve the stacks. El Paso doesn’t have enough of its history in preservation. So we still believe in keeping Asarco and we’re going to keep moving forward with it,” he said.