Out of the smoke

Demolitions raise dust and environmental concerns

By Lorain Watters – The Prospector

(Aaron Montes/The Prospector)

The remains from the 828-foot smokestack. (Aaron Montes/The Prospector)

The dust and debris travels eastward passing through I-10 and parts of UTEP. (Aaron Montes/The Prospector)

Concerns about the environment were raised after this weekend’s demolitions, but environmental experts say that there is nothing to worry about.

Both ASARCO smokestacks and City Hall released clouds of dust and debris that alarmed residents and environmental advocates.

Emilio Rodriguez, director of Environmental Health and Safety, said that UTEP took samples of the ASARCO site after the demolition.

“We will hear about the results on Wednesday (April 17), and expect them to be positive, with no hazardous materials present,” Rodriguez said.

Robert Moss, assistant vice president for Environmental Health and Safety, presumes El Paso is safe after the demolition but said without the data from the lab results he can’t know for sure.

“They took measures to manage dust but dust still got off the site,” Moss said. “The towers were made of cement, concrete and brick, so 99 percent, I presume, would have been turned to dust at the time of demolition.”

Roberto Puga, ASARCO commissioner and site custodial trustee for ASARCO, said the smokestacks were checked prior to demolition for metals, organic chemicals, chemicals of warfare and asbestos. According to Puga, the analysis came back negative, deeming the site safe.

“The data indicates that these towers are made of concrete,” Puga said. “There is no basis for worry about there being dust clouds with toxic contents.”

Scott Brown, environmental cleanup contractor, said that after the demolition, the environmental cleanup team went onto the site to gather rebar—steel bars that reinforce concrete—which has monetary value. He said The Texas Commission for Environmental Quality also took samples of the site.

“We will take the TCQ sampling to make sure that the information collected is consistent with the data collected prior to the demolition,” Brown said.

Jessica Camacho, senior environmental science major and president of Environmental Advocates, said the smokestacks should be the least of everyone’s worries.

“There should have been more precautionary measures for the City Hall demolition than for ASARCO to protect the environment,” Camacho said. “There was debris flying into people’s homes and that debris was going into their lungs; they should have been more considerate.”

Camacho said that ASARCO was deemed safe since they had tested for metals prior to the demolition and found nothing. She said City Hall’s central location made it easier for residential neighborhoods to be affected by damaging particles.

“I was upset when I heard that the demolition went well, yet all of this dust was spreading into the environment,” Camacho said. “They should have taken the same measures that they did with ASARCO with City Hall, by using the misting system to control the dust and particles being scattered in the sky.”

Like Camacho, Janet Arteaga, graduate philosophy major, believes the City Hall debris enveloping the downtown area is harmful to the environment.

“It was an older building whose building materials would probably not pass new building regulations,” Arteaga said. “The environmental impact of the demolition is one thing I’ll definitely be monitoring the news for.”

Lorain Watters may be reached at prospector@utep.edu.

Source: http://www.utepprospector.com/news/out-of-the-smoke-1.3028815#.UW75A6Isl4M