ASARCO trustee says no hazardous materials found during testing

By Jesse Martinez and Bill Melugin

EL PASO, Texas — Officials in charge of the ASARCO demolition told KFOX14 they have done enough testing on the stacks, and all of the results came back negative for dangerous materials.

There have been many questions from the public regarding the testing that has been done on the smokestacks, and whether or not it has been adequate, ASARCO trustee Roberto Puga believes it has.

“I can tell you that the big stack had asbestos abatement done last year, but we also took the core samples collected from the three stacks, the outer big stack, the inner big stack, and the 600-foot stack, we ran them for asbestos and all results came back negative,” Puga said. “Several weeks ago, we took the same core samples and we ran them for metals, volatile organics, and semi volatile organics, we found no concentrations that would cause concern.”

Puga said that they also tested for chemical warfare materials because of rumors that the military had illegally incinerated Agent Orange and Sarin gas without permits.

“We also ran the stack samples for an analysis of the degenerative products from chemical weapons, that analysis also came back negative,” Puga said. “Even though technically, we found no reason to test for asbestos or degenerative products from chemical weapons, we just wanted to be responsive to community concerns.”

Puga told KFOX14 he knows the seriousness of what he is tasked to do.

“It’s a career moment for me, it’s one of those things that, if it goes right, nobody will remember, if it goes wrong, I don’t know what’s going to happen to me, so it’s a very trying time for me, and I fully understand the magnitude of what we’re doing,” Puga said.

Officials said a “state of the art” misting system will be in place to limit the amount of dust once the smokestacks hit the ground. About 3,000 gallons of water will be used.

The smaller smoke stack will go down first at 6:45 a.m., with the taller stack following nine seconds later. Flares will go off three minutes before. Officials said 300 pounds of dynamite will be used for both smokestacks.

The only things that could stop the demolition would be a lightning storm or strong winds. During the press conference, winds blew at about 10 to 15 mph, and Puga said that would be strong enough to consider delaying the demolition.

The worst-case scenario, Puga said, would be if the smokestacks fell backward, but he said the chances of that happening are miniscule.

Road closures will begin with Paisano Drive and Executive Center Boulevard closing at 4 a.m. Executive Center Boulevard will reopen at 8 a.m. and Paisano Drive will reopen at 10 a.m.

Interstate 10 will close from Mesa Street to Sunland Park Drive from 6 a.m. until about 8 a.m.

KFOX14 will begin live coverage of the ASARCO demolition beginning at 6 a.m. on air and online.