Asarco smokestacks: Residents fear impact of stacks’ demolition

By Aileen B. Flores \ El Paso Times

The Asarco smokestacks can be seen tower above fog in the morning. (Times file photo)

As the demolition of the Asarco smokestacks approaches, residents of a nearby neighborhood said they are concerned about how the explosions that will bring the stacks down will affect their homes.

Explosives will bring down the 825- and 612-foot stacks simultaneously on the morning of April 13.

Residents of La Calavera, a small, isolated neighborhood near the Asarco site, said officials in charge of the demolition have not approached them to address their concerns.

“They don’t care about us,” a man said while cleaning his yard Tuesday.

A meeting with the residents was canceled last week after media cameras showed up. Some residents seem to be reluctant to speak to the media or to any stranger.

Another meeting has been scheduled for 4 p.m. today at the Asarco site. It is for residents only.

One of the main concerns is the possible damage to the houses in the neighborhood by the explosions, said Ruben Escandon Sr. The houses are mostly adobe.

“They could cave in or crack more. Some of them are old,” Escandon said.

Escandon, 74, has lived on San Marcos Drive since he was born, and his house already shows some signs of deterioration.

“Long time ago when the brick company from Juárez used to use dynamite, the houses used to shake and the windows used to rattle,” he said.” When they knocked the other stack down, we felt it.”

Escandon was referring to the demolition of a 300-foot concrete chimney in September 2011.

Asarco Site Custodial Trustee Roberto Puga said that though the vibration from the event is not expected to affect the area, the Texas Custodial Trust is taking the residents’ concerns seriously.

Puga said a survey is going to be done before and after demolition to ensure the houses were not damaged.

“We are going to go to every one of their houses and photo document any cracks that are there, and then go back after the event to see if there is any new damage,” he said.

Also, the trust will use dust control measures and seismographs will be placed around the site to measure the impact of the explosions, Puga said.

Dust is expected to be generated when the stacks crash to the ground. Residents will have the option of moving to a hotel during the weekend of the demolition at the trust’s expense, Puga said.

“Part of the reason for the meeting (Wednesday) is to explain all that to them and tell them about the inspections and the seismograph monitoring and assure them that if there is any damage caused by the impact, we are in the position to measure it, see it and fix it,” Puga said.

In addition to the impact on nearby residents, the stacks demolition will affect traffic.

The demolition is expected to take place between 6:30 a.m. and 7 a.m. April 13.

At 5:30 a.m. that day, West Paisano Drive will be closed from Executive Center Boulevard to Ruhlen Court and Executive Center will be closed from Paisano Drive to Rio Bravo Street.

The major closure will be on Interstate 10 from Executive Center to Schuster Avenue, and is expected to take place 15 minutes before the blast. Puga said traffic will be diverted to Mesa Street.

Mexican officials visited the Asarco site on Tuesday as part of the binational coordination effort.

Last week, Juárez authorities said there was a plan to evacuate 2,600 people from two northwest neighborhoods on the day of the demolition, but that plan might change, Puga said.

“They are going to rethink what sort of plan they are going to put forward,” Puga said.

Aileen B. Flores may be reached; 546-6362.