300 pounds of dynamite to fell Asarco stacks

By Vic Kolenc and Aileen B. Flores – El Paso Times

Ruben R. Ramirez / El Paso Times

It will take 300 pounds of dynamite — and less than a minute — Saturday morning to demolish the two giant smokestacks on the former Asarco copper smelter site in West-Central El Paso, the site trustee said Thursday during a pre-demolition news conference.

How the stacks will fall

“We’ve done everything we can to make this as safe as it possibly can be,” said Roberto Puga, the trustee in charge of cleaning up and selling the 430-acre site. “If it goes right, no one will remember it. If it goes wrong, I don’t know what will happen to me.”

The demolition time, initially set for 6:30 a.m., is now set for 6:45 a.m. Saturday to allow for more sunlight, Puga said. The time window for the demolition is between 6:30 and 7 a.m., he said.

All that would stop the demolition is sustained winds of 15 mph or more, or wind gusts of 30 mph, or a lightning storm, he said. The weather forecast indicates that conditions will be favorable for the demolition, Puga said.

Extensive dust-control measures are being taken, including a 26-machine water-misting system installed around the two giant smokestacks, Puga said. The misting system will spray out 3,000 gallons per minute before, during and after the demolition using a total of 500,000 gallons of water, he reported.

Two flares will be shot into the air three minutes before the demolition begins.

The first to go will be the 63-year-old smokestack used for a long-closed lead smelter. It’s about the height of a 50-story building. The second to fall will be the iconic, 47-year-old smokestack used for the copper smelter, closed in 1999, with its huge “Asarco” letters on the side. That’s almost as tall as a 70-story building.

The demolition will be conducted by Brandenburg Industrial Service Co., of Chicago, and Dykon Explosive Demolition Corp., of Tulsa. As part of the project, El Paso Concrete Cutters was subcontracted by Brandenburg to prepare the fall of the chimneys.

For two weeks, a crew of six people worked 10-hour shifts Monday through Sunday making angle cuts and holes to the bottom of the chimneys where the dynamite is going to be placed, said Ismael Leyva, company owner.

Leyva said the cuts and holes will help the structures lean toward the center of the Asarco site when the explosives blow up.

The task was not easy, Leyva said. Workers had to use high-powered drills to make countless 6-inch holes in 42-inch-thick walls, and the fact that another stack is built within the tallest chimney made it “a little bit” hard to finish the work on time, he said.

Leyva said that being part of the demolition of the smokestacks is one of the biggest projects ever for his small company, which was founded about 10 years ago.

His company has done work for Fort Bliss, the University of Texas at El Paso and the city, but this is the first time it has worked at the Asarco site, he said.

“It’s a big job for us. I know it’s history,” Leyva said.

“Before, I didn’t care much about Asarco, now I’ve been learning more about it,” he said. “They are some of the tallest structures in the world.”

Vic Kolenc may be reached at vkolenc@elpasotimes.com; 546-6421.
Aileen B. Flores may be reached at aflores@elpasotimes.com; 546-6362.

A short tour was given to the local media to show the mister system that will help control the dust which will be caused by the demolition of the stacks. (Ruben R Ramirez/El Paso Times)

Closer look


  • The 828-foot concrete chimney built in 1966 consists of an outside concrete shell about 62.5 feet in outside diameter at the base with a 35.5-foot-diameter concrete liner.
  • The 612-foot chimney was constructed in 1950. It is approximately 46 feet in outside diameter at the base.
  • The fall zone for the chimneys is to the east, toward the center of the site.
  • Steel at the base of the chimney opposite the direction of fall is cut before the blast.
  • Explosives are used to remove a section of the chimney in the direction of fall.
  • The chimney falls like a tree.
  • Brandenburg Industrial Service Co. and Dykon Explosive Demolition Corp. are demolition contractors.
  • Dykon is responsible for the demolition of more than 100 chimneys around the world.
  • Dykon executed the implosion of the Dallas Cowboys’ former stadium in Irving in 2010.
  • Brandenburg is responsible for the demolition of smelter chimneys throughout the country.

Street closings

  • 4 a.m.: West Paisano Drive from Executive Center to Ruhlen Court, and Executive Center from Paisano Drive to Rio Bravo Street.
  • 6 a.m.: Interstate 10 from Downtown Mesa exit to Sunland Park exit.
  • 6:45 a.m.: Demolition is expected to take place. Structures will collapse within 15-20 seconds after initiation of explosives.
  • 8 a.m.: Interstate 10 to be reopened.
  • 10 a.m.: West Paisano Drive to be reopened.
  • Juárez officials are being asked to close streets that are within the fall exclusion zone.
  • Crews will inspect Paisano and I-10 near the Asarco site to make sure no debris from the demolition got on roads before they are reopened.

Source: Texas Custodial Trust.

Sun Metro

  • Routes 18 and 83 will be detoured from 4 a.m. until about 10 a.m.
  • Routes 18 and 83 will not make stops along areas that are not part of the regular routes.
  • Two bus stops near Paisano and Racetrack drives will not be served during detour. Sun Metro staff will monitor the area along McNutt, between Paisano and Racetrack, to help passengers get to the nearest bus stop.
  • Service delays are expected for Routes 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 18, 20, 34, 83 and 204, due to traffic congestion.

Source: Sun Metro.

Source: http://www.elpasotimes.com/news/ci_23009602/300-pounds-dynamite-fell-asarco-stacks