Email from Lauren Villagran to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga, P.G.


My name is Lauren Villagran, and I am a reporter based in New Mexico. I have been working on a story about the old Smeltertown – about the community that still gets together annually 40 years after the town was dismantled. The story explores cultural identity as well as the research that really began what we know today about childhood lead exposure.

My reporting relies heavily on Monica Perales’ book “Smeltertown: Making and Remembering a Southwest Border Community,” as well as news articles and interviews with individuals who lived in Smeltertown and worked at the ASARCO smelter. Although the article is largely an exploration of the past, I would like to seek updated comment from the company, or the custodial trustee (copied here), regarding the following:

1) I would especially like a company historian’s view on Smeltertown. For example, what role did ASARCO play in helping foster a Mexican American community with an identity unique and separate from nearby El Paso? How does the company view that chapter of its history?

2) It is my understanding that ASARCO maintained in the early 1970s that elevated blood lead levels found in children by the first CDC/Landrigan study didn’t necessarily have anything to do with the smelter (the company pointed to lead paint and gasoline emissions) and also maintainedthat lead exposure wasn’t harming children’s development. What is ASARCO’s viewtoday?

3) ASARCO’s settlement with the City of El Paso in 1972over emissions included fines of $680,500 for 88 specific pollution violations andthe installation of $750,000 of additional emission-control equipment. ASARCOagreed to pay all medical expenses for 134 children being treated for leadexposure for at least 30 months. Does ASARCO have any updated comment regardingthis settlement?

4) What is ASARCO’s view today of the decision todemolish Smeltertown, given the problems with lead exposure? Many of itsresidents still express nostalgia for the close-knit community, despite therisks of lead.

I know we are coming up on a holiday, but if it ispossible to respond by Monday, Nov. 28 -within a week – that would be fantastic. Please feel free to reach me here orcall 505-235-6908 if you have any questions.

Thank you in advance for your time!


Lauren Villagran

Response from Roberto Puga, P.G.:

Hello Ms. Villagran,

In my position as the Custodial Trustee, I have neitherthe knowledge or background to answer your questions. I was selected as the Trustee in late 2009,solely to carry out the purpose of the custodial trust, which is to address thecontamination at the site and find a long term site use. Previous to my appointment, I never workedfor or had any relationship with ASARCO.

We are about done with the site remediation, and are inthe process of selling the property to the University of Texas.

I invite you to visit our project website, where you canfind information about the site, the Trust activities, technical documents,site visuals, media coverage archive and a community blog.


Roberto Puga, P.G.

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