Local leaders send letter to TCEQ to delay demoliton of ASARCO smokestacks

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POSTED: Friday, March 8, 2013 - 7:20pm

UPDATED: Saturday, March 9, 2013 - 5:49pm

Crews are scheduled to tear down the ASARCO smokestacks in a month. There's a last ditch effort to save the stacks.

A group of local leaders is signing a letter and sending it to state regulators to delay the demolition of the smokestacks.

"It's not like demolishing a building,” said El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar. “This is absolutely nothing like blowing up a building, even a very old building."

Judge Escobar is one of several leaders sending a letter to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, concerned about the upcoming demolition of the ASARCO smokestacks.

"This is demolishing a smokestack where hazardous materials were smelted. This is a smokestack that has contaminants that once airborne could really cause serious health damages to the people of this region," said Escobar.

Other leaders involved include, State Senator Jose Rodriguez, State Representative Marisa Marquez, City Representative Susie Byrd and U.S. Representative Beto O'Rourke.

"Our interest from our office is two-fold,” said O’Rourke. “One is the public health and quality of life, and the second one is to ensure that all federal laws are being followed."

After the scheduled demolition, the materials are expected to be buried on the ASARCO site.

"We want to ensure ourselves and the public that in burying something like the stack that has essentially berthed lots of toxins and pollutants for a hundred years," said Byrd. "The fact that the landfill is essentially right next to the American Dam, where we get a significant amount of our water supply."

A Save the Stacks group wanted to turn the stacks into a monument, but lost their battle. The city also considered buying the property but decided it was too expensive.

Leaders now want to delay the demolition until their questions can be answered.

"There's no reason why they absolutely have to stick to the timeline. They can hold off on the timeline until they have the answers that will protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of this region," said Escobar.

The smokestacks are scheduled to be demolished on April 13.

We tried to contact the trustee of the ASARCO site, Roberto Puga. He did not return our phone call.

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