ASARCO investigates site to see if residential development is possible

By Joshua Zuber – KFOX14

The ASARCO copper smelting site is expected to be tested in May to see if residential property could be built on the east side of Interstate 10 on the Westside of El Paso.

“We have various boring investigations over there to determine exactly how much material there is and whether it’s easily excavated out,” Roberto Puga, the ASARCO site trustee, said. “And then once we have that information, we’ll make a determination whether we have the resources or if it makes sense to go through the extra effort of cleaning the west side to residential standards.”

One of the materials known to be at the site is slag, which looks like volcanic rock.

“Slag is the waste product from the smelting process,” Puga said.

Puga says the slag is safe and not radioactive.

But Heather McMurray, a self-proclaimed watchdog of the ASARCO site, says that’s likely not true.

She believes the site is too dangerous to build homes or even industrial buildings.

McMurray spoke to KFOX about this issue in January.

“I don’t believe it would be safe,” McMurray said.

Her main concern, she says, is that back in the 90s, ASARCO reportedly burned toxic materials, something McMurray was quoted about in an article in 2006 in the New York Times.

Because of that, she claims, the site can likely never be used for anything industrial, let alone letting people live there.

“They don’t have enough time or money to clean up this site correctly,” she said.

Puga disputes that claim about the timeframe and money.

“We definitely have enough money to clean it up to industrial standards,” he said. “Cleaning it up to residential standards is kind of an add-on to our scope.”