Asarco stack: Don’t pay to keep it standing

El Paso Times Editorial Board

Why pay money to retain a relic from shuttered Asarco when we paid good money to help keep the copper smelter from reopening in the first place?

At issue is possibly saving the 826-foot-tall main smokestack as a remembrance of the 100-plus years Asarco operated here.

We say bring down the stack.

If it would be cost-effective to keep it, that would be different. Then we could deem it an icon and be done with it. But, at a cost of $14 million for modifications and then maintenance … let’s just say it’s not that much of an icon.

Mayor John Cook said he will not ask City Council to raise property taxes to pay for saving the stack. He said it “would be a waste of taxpayer money.”

Roberto Puga, principal trustee for cleaning up the entire site, said, “Interest in the stack has really been waning over the course of a year.”

He noted that, at first, there had been some public sentiment that leaned toward preservation.

There had been talk of perhaps a private group forming and coming up with the money. Anybody want to help chip in $14 million to save a smokestack?

And the $14 million is just a guesstimate. Presently, it would be about $6 million to bring the stack up to earthquake-resistant standards. When the stack was built in 1965 and 1966, earthquake science was in its infancy. Who knows what the standards will be in later years as this country continues to head in the direction of safety and ecology.

If the stack ever collapsed on its own, it would raise a very unhealthy, gagging dust cloud full of pollutants.

There are now scientific ways to bring such a structure down without risking citizens’ health. But it’s expected that parts of both Paisano Drive and Interstate 10 would be shut down during the imploding process.

Until Asarco closed more than a decade ago, it provided well-paying jobs to generations of El Pasoans. Even Pancho Villa worked there for a month or two.

But, as the city grew, and Asarco was no longer on the outskirts of the city, the pollution factor far outweighed the economical benefits. It now sits amid tens of thousands of residents.

And, who knows, it might be a more spectacular site to see an 826-foot-tall smokestack fall than to just look at the thing standing there. Drop the stack.

Poll Results (955 Total Votes):

Yes = 64.71%
No = 32.14%
Undecided = 3.14%