Contract being finalized for ASARCO land sale to UTEP

By Jillian Fertig / KFOX14

A contract is being finalized for the sale of the old ASARCO smelter property in El Paso.

EL PASO, Texas — A contract is being finalized for the sale of the old ASARCO smelter property in El Paso.

After years of work and cleanup, the project navigator says the contract with UTEP is being finalized and could close within the next 30 days.

The ASARCO Texas Custodial Trust told KFOX14 the net proceeds from the potential land sale will be put into a trust to be used for future maintenance and to keep an eye on groundwater and air quality at the site.

The ASARCO stacks were demolished in 2013. The subsequent cleanup of the 460-acre property has a price tag of about $80 million.

There have been a lot of environmental concerns raised as this project has moved forward. Many people living near the former smelter have told KFOX14 in the past they find it hard to believe the site could possibly be clean from toxins like lead and cadmium.

Some even called for the Environmental Protection Agency to come in and test the soil before the property is sold.

Maintaining the site and all the environmental monitoring equipment will cost about $300,000 a year.

UTEP will have some restrictions once the contract is finalized, such as only being able to develop a portion of the land it buys.

There are also parts of the property where it wouldn’t be allowed to build housing, only commercial and industrial development.

“There was interest from other private parties, but the trust always felt UTEP would be a great partner because we have had a lot of confidence in them to be mindful of the environmental conditions of the site and the long-term operations, maintenance and monitoring the requirements that are needed,” said Roberto Puga, custodial trustee.

KFOX14 reached out to UTEP for comment on the pending deal, but has not received a return call yet.