ASARCO site close to completion, former workers say area is toxic

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Former ASARCO workers say that building on the smelter site isn’t a smart idea. On Thursday, a meeting was held to inform the community of the progress that’s been made at the site, but people who used to work there say that the soil is too toxic for inhabitants.

“I feel sorry for the people who are going to inhabit that area because with the rains and all that, all that is going to come back up,” says former ASARCO worker Daniel Arellano.

Arellano and his former colleague Carlos Rodriguez say that they are not happy that the site may soon be part of the University of Texas at El Paso.  Like Arellano, Rodriguez also used to work at ASARCO.

“I think they should dig it up about 100 feet, and throw it away… it’s not good for public use, especially students,” Rodriguez says.

Both say that they have terminal health problems from working at ASARCO, and they don’t believe anything should be built on that land.

“All that stuff is bad and eventually they put liners on it but how long is that liner going to last,” says Arellano.

According to project manager Roberto Puga, ASARCO contributed $52 million into the revitalization and clean-up of the site.

“All of the infrastructure from the ASARCO site is gone now and we are in the 5-6 months of the re-mediation of the site we consolidated the site material, put other materials beneath earth and covers in the site and we are leaving the site ready to be reused,” Puga says.

News Channel 9 asked Puga about the toxicity concerns of the area.

“I understand people’s concerns about the site but I think we really addressed all the concerns and we’re ready for the site to move forward,” he says. Puga says they’ve taken the proper steps to ensure the area is safe, but Rodriguez still don’t think it’s enough.

“Eventually there will be kids their and to me, it’s just not safe. It’s highly contaminated, highly contaminated,” Rodriguez stated

Puga says it’s not a done deal that the UT System will buy the property, but he did say that they are in active negotiations with the university. 

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