Asarco cleanup more than halfway complete

By Juan Gutierrez \ KDBC


EL PASO — Nearly 400 acres of land are currently being cleaned from the Asarco property and officials said Tuesday they are estimating the project is more than half way complete.

Site Trustee Roberto Puga said the project is about 60 percent done and is on schedule for completion by 2015.

“The remaining work is less complex than the stuff we started with so we have a fair amount of confidence that we will be able to finish on time,” Puga said.

For more than two years crews have been working on removing contaminants from the land.

Puga said the demolition of the two taller smokestacks in April was part of the larger, more time consuming aspects of the cleanup.

With that complete, crews have been able to stockpile all contaminated materials and move them to a permanent large waste cell at the north end of the property.

Puga said all the work being done has to comply with EPA and Texas Environmental Quality Commission standards.

“It’s designed to isolate the material from both the environment and human contact,” he said.

The base liner of the waste cell is lined to prevent contaminants from possibly reaching the water table.

Once completely full, it will be capped off in a way that matches the landscape of the area.

Puga said there was more cleanup that was initially anticipated and the $52 million starting budget did become a challenge.

But fortunately, Puga said they found material containing gold, copper and silver which has added to the budget.

“It increased our budget to $80 million and with that we feel is will allow us to do a fairly good job to allow the site to be reused in a productive way,” Puga said.

The scope of the project will also include removing black material seen off of Paisano and across the interstate, even though Puga said it does not have a contamination problem, he said it is an eyesore.