Email to Joe Muench and Robert Moore in Response to El Paso Times Editorial Board Opinion

Email Subject Heading: 12/19/12 Editorial (read the editorial)

Mr. Muench and Mr. Moore:

Regarding today’s editorial, what has happened between Dec. 8 and today, Dec. 19? You may think that today’s editorial is only asking for a new study, but our group is receiving phone calls and texts asking why the El Paso Times editorial board has changed their position regarding the Asarco stacks to wanting to preserve them.

Clearly, Robert Ardovino has met with the El Paso Times editorial board and per my conversation with you Mr. Muench, today that was confirmed.

I and other representatives of our group of nearly 60 would also like to meet with you and I will call per your direction to set this up.

We beg to differ with your characterization of our community that there is no organized group “nearly as adamant for tearing down the stacks as the Save the Stacks people”. Most of the community reads that city council voted down the resolution supporting purchasing the stacks with their tax dollars and believe that they don’t need to be wary of the issue popping up again. This isn’t a stack’s popularity contest.

The issue is public health and safety. Do the stacks have to “glow” for people to get it, that these stacks are polluted and “should be regarded as toxic waste” per the Sierra Club of the Lone Star Chapter of Texas.

It is questionable whether Robert Ardovino and group care about a memorial to the Asarco workers. They are interested in loading the cost of preserving the stacks onto the city tax payer with possible aspirations of developing a mall. If you want all the links that Susie Byrd sent to one of our group, I will be happy to forward them. This isn’t about preserving history. The stacks were built in 1966. If you want to preserve real history, preserve the missions. If this is about providing a memorial to the workers, let’s give them one on site that won’t sicken or kill them.

We don’t need anymore of the debate and delays which have been going on since 2009. Mr. Roberto Puga delayed demolition of the stacks in Nov. 2011 to Nov. 2012 and then another month. Studies have been done. The question is who do you believe? Ardovino’s engineering firm spent less than a month assessing the stacks and determined it would cost only $4 million over 50 years and no up front stabilization funds would be needed. The same firm admitted that they had not studied what would be required to stabilize the stacks in case of failure due to wind.

Mr. James Sher of the TCEQ,B.A. in Hydraulic Engineering, MA in Civil Engineering, Professional Engineer, State of Texas and Mr. Roberto Puga, BS in Geophysics, experienced in remediation and development have both spent years on the Asarco site. Sher’s remediation plan which includes demolition of the stacks as the first task, can be read on the TCEQ website as well as many documents provided by the Sierra Club of the Lone Star Chapter, the EPA etc.

Mr. Puga has already conducted a study which rendered results which were published before Mr. Moore returned to El Paso. The study concluded that it would take about $6 million up front to stabilize the stacks and $100,000 or more per year for maintenance. The cost would be $14 million over 50 years. Puga has also estimated that it would require over $4 million more up front to retro-fit the stacks to prevent failure–cracking and falling–due to wind.

Studies cost at least $30,000 to conduct. These are not cheap studies and since Puga has already hired an independent engineering firm to conduct a study, we don’t see the need to spend further remediation dollars to conduct another study. If you want the bottom line, it will take millions up front and over time to preserve the stacks.

Do not ignore the cost of lost tax revenue, estimated to be $5 to 5.5 million per year because no one will buy the site with the stacks on it. Additionally, in conversations with Ms. Leslie Rose of Citizens for a Healthy Bay in Tacoma, Washington, they also could not sell their Asarco site with the stacks standing. She can also give you an earful of why the Asarco stacks should be demolished and placed out of reach of human contact.

It appears to me that Ardovino and group are quick to say the studies overseen by Mr. Puga, the TCEQ and the EPA are wrong and they’re right. At the council meeting where his resolution was voted down, what I saw was a slide Ardovino presented with the tallest stack with his name on it instead of Asarco. The implications of his ambition became quite clear to me in that one slide and it should be clear to the editorial board. To quote you Mr. Muench, “The Star on the Mountain, not the two smokestacks, is El Paso”. (I would add the word “polluted” before smokestacks.)

I can be reached by e-mail and by phone.


Peggy McNiel

1 Response Add a Comment

  1. Comment by Dion Dorado-Tax Payer — April 11, 2013 @ 8:17 pm

    Hooray for the big bang! By the way since I could never find a voting record on Robert or Roberto Ardovino, Where does he really live? Texas or New Mexico? If indeed he is a New Mexican, DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS!

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