Email from Heather McMurray to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

Email Subject Heading: Isotopes at Asarco El Paso site

Dear Mr Puga,

There is a complete absence of data from Asarco/agencies regarding radioactive isotope levels from asarco site. Why?

To not even release data on those radioactive isotopes common to smelting….to eliminate *all* as “chemicals of concern” for clean up is disrespectful of our El Paso families’ right to know.

We know that Asarco, Engelhard and Dupont (each caught sending illegal materials to adarco el paso for burning) were among the key U.S. DOE high level radioactive waste disposal contractors; and, that nuclear control rod material was burned here.

I respectfully ask why we citizens in El Paso TX have never been given the levels of the isotopes listed in the attached picture….we know that some are common to smelters and that the Asarco el paso smelter installed a distillation unit to remove some of the low level radioactive isotopes (all enviromental agencies and you refused to allow me to pick up slag from this unit after its fire).

So, why the deep silence and total lack of *any* public data from this site over its lifetime??

It is not responsible, ethical, or protective of citizens to keep this under wraps. And to make $$ as the company charged with “clean up” of that site, even if endorsed by the bankruptcy, implies that it cannot be cleaned up.

This silence suggests that so much damage was done by a decade of disposal for the U.S. DOE, that disclosure of the isotopes’ levels would be detrimental to the declared value of that land, and the 1000 square miles around the site (e.g., Tacoma, WA).

Please state for the record if any data exists for the amount of isotopes listed in the attached picture, for the asarco site: whether confidential, classified, business-privileged, etc. ANY at all? And, if not, why?

Keeping a lid on it is not protective of public health.

H. Mcmurray, m.s. biol. Sci.

Response from Roberto Puga:

Dear Ms. McMurray,

Thank you once again for your continued interest in the Former ASARCO Smelter site. Please see below for our responses to the questions you posed in your May 21, 2016 e-mail. As we have done in the past both your original e-mail and our responses will be posted on the blog section of the webpage.

The Asarco site has been extensively investigated and the results from the various site investigations may be found at the TCEQ website. These results are included in the attachments and appendices to the investigation reports. See the following website:

Because the site did not handle radioactive materials and no facilities that shipped waste to Asarco handled radioactive material, no radiation surveys were required and the Texas Custodial Trust (the Trust) has not collected measurements for radioactivity at the Site.
Naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) is present everywhere in the environment and the Trust carefully reviewed the study the EPA produced in 1999 that specifically examines copper mining in Arizona, and the technological enhancement of natural radioactive material (TENORM) through the mining process . Given the nature of the smelter feed, the level of documentation on the subject, and the scrutiny by the regulatory agencies involved in the project, we do not believe that the concentrates processed at the plant could result radioactive levels above any regulatory limits.

The Trust has also investigated records received from EPA regarding material shipments to the site, specifically materials that may have been processed by ENCYCLE and other sources. In October 2010 the Trust issued the Review of Asarco El Paso Smelting Processes, which can be found here:

The review document included an evaluation of shipment records that were available to the Trust at that time. Section 3.1 of the review document included the list of 17 records, posted in 2010 to the USEPA Region 6 Website that describe materials that had been shipped to ENCYCLE from numerous sources. This evaluation found a letter dated December 1995 where ENCYCLE informed the TNRCC that it had received a lead sulfide waste; containing naturally occurring radioactive material at quantities less than the regulated level; but it did not indicate the quantity of material or if the material was shipped to the El Paso Site. It should be noted that there was no lead processing on the site since the mid-1980s.

In 2012 the Trust initiated the evaluation of shipment records, made available by the USEPA in 2011 and 2012, related to shipments concerning ENCYCLE. The resulting evaluation of records made available by the USEPA was included in the Supplement Remedial Investigation (RI) Report that is available here:

To date the evaluation of shipment records has not found indications of radioactive materials. In addition, the records document that quench brine from the Rocky Mountain Arsenal in Colorado (RMA) and the Deseret Chemical Depot in Utah (DCD) were shipped to ENCYCLE. RMA and DCD were/are chemical weapons facilities, not nuclear facilities, so their wastes are not expected to be radioactive. The 2005 Five-Year Review Report for Rocky Mountain Arsenal does not list radioactive isotopes as chemicals of concern. According to a May 14, 2010, letter from the USEPA to community members, each waste shipment sent from RMA to ENCYCLE (which later shipped the waste to the Site) was tested and found not to be radioactive.

Given the scrutiny of the site from both state and federal authorities, we do not expect natural or man-made radioactive materials above regulatory levels on or around the facility or in the stack.

The Trust has been completely transparent in its discussions regarding the constituents of concern at the Site and made available to the public all material it has and there is nothing kept “secret” by the Trust. For the current cleanup program, the Trust has posted on its website all documents it produces in the form of plans, specifications, presentations and reports.


Roberto Puga, P.G.

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