No evacuation for Asarco smokestacks’ fall: Mexican officials will close streets for demolition

By Lorena Figueroa \ El Paso Times

Mexican officials decided to close streets in neighborhoods closest to the Asarco smokestacks on the morning of April 13, the day the stacks will come down. (Vanessa Monsisvais / El Paso Times)

Mexican authorities have decided not to evacuate people from two Juárez neighborhoods that sit directly across the Rio Grande from Asarco on the day the smokestacks will be demolished.

Instead, Juárez officials will close some streets and establish a surveillance operation in the area on April 13, the day the stacks come down.

The decision was made Wednesday and came after local, state and federal Mexican authorities met in El Paso with representatives of the Asarco Site Custodial Trust and the Brandenburg Industrial Service Co., which will be doing the demolition. The group also toured the site where the 825-foot and 612-foot stacks currently stand.

In the meeting, Mexican and U.S. authorities addressed the final details and risks associated with tearing down the stacks.

“After reviewing all of the documents we were given (by Asarco officials) and the security measures that will be put in place on the U.S. side the day of the demolition, we concluded that it is not necessary to do an evacuation,” Director of Civil Protection EfrĂ©n Matamoros said.

As of last week, the agency planned to evacuate about 2,600 people living in the Ladrillera de Juárez and Franja Sara Lugo neighborhoods for a few hours starting at 6 a.m. April 13.

Matamoros said that representatives from Mexico’s Environmental and Natural Resources Agency, or Semarnat, and the Environmental Protection Office, or Profepa, were also at the meeting and reviewed the environmental impact tests.

“They confirmed that the contamination levels are going to be safe in the impact area,” he added.

Profepa officials in Juárez referred questions to Semarnat. Semarnat officials could not be reached for comment.

Matamoros said his agency reviewed on site the security measures around Asarco’s stacks, including a barrier and a misting system to capture the dust.

He said a contingency plan will be implemented in Juárez the morning of the demolition. It will include the presence of up to five ambulances and two fire trucks.

Also, as a security measure, local, state and federal police will close the streets in the Ladrillera de Juárez and Franja Sara Lugo neighborhoods that are within 175 feet from the international border. The streets will be closed three hours before the smokestacks’ demolition, he said.

He added that residents who live closest to the border will be advised of the contingency plan beginning today. They will be allowed to leave their homes, but they won’t be able to come back until after the demolition.

Asarco trust officials have scheduled the demolition for between 6:30 and 7 a.m.

The trust has asked Juárez officials to temporarily close the road that runs parallel to Paisano Drive. That road leads to a brick factory.

Matamoros confirmed that the street will be closed.

He also said there will be an area south of the Ladrillera de Juárez neighborhood where neighbors and visitors can safely watch the demolition of the stacks.

Lorena Figueroa may be reached at; 546-6129.