The skyline of the city of El Paso is set to change forever. The Asarco smokestacks are set to come down in less than 48 hours.
According to Asarco site trustee Roberto Puga, the project demolition time is slated for 6:45 a.m. on Saturday, but the window remains open 15 minutes before and after that time.
On Thursday, Puga gave media a final look at the site.
Puga told ABC-7 that there is a lot of pressure to do things right.
“It’s a career moment for me,” said Puga. “It’s one of those things if it goes right no one will remember, but if it goes wrong I don’t know what will happen to me. So, this is a very trying time.”
Despite his candid response, Puga assured everyone that every “t” has been crossed, every “i” dotted.
During his final walk-through with media on Thursday Puga showed off water cannons which are tasked with keeping dust from overwhelming the area. He called the system state of the art, noting that 26 cannons would mist the area with 3,000 gallons of water per minute.
While the word “mist” has been used, the technical plan calls for a “curtain of mist,” Puga said the water won’t be a small amount like you’d see tied to a home watering system.
“It is really there to saturate the air with water so that dust particles are attracted to the water and therefore it knocks the dust back down to the ground,” said Puga.
Puga said the most important thing is getting the word out of what to expect on Saturday. He made it a point to remind the public that trespassers will be arrested and dealt with properly. Both El Paso police officers and private security guards will be on-hand to ensure the safety of everyone.
But the real pinch will be felt by travelers. Puga explained new shutdowns during his Thursday talk with media, he told ABC-7 that the window for road closures has expanded.
A section of Interstate 10 will be shut down prior to the blast.
I-10 will be closed off at 6 a.m. Paisano and Executive Drive will also be shutdown at that time.
After the stacks come down, Puga said an explosives expert will have to ensure that all 300 lbs. of dynamite has been detonated before anyone is allowed near the site. After that, crews will have to inspect I-10, Paisano and Executive Drive Blvd. for debris.
Puga said he expects I-10 and Executive Drive Blvd. to be re-opened around 8 a.m. Paisano Drive will not likely re-open until 10 a.m.
Puga said a lot of work has gone into making Saturday a success, now he’s just waiting for Sunday morning. That’s when he’ll finally relax.
“I fully understand the magnitude of what we’re doing,” said Puga. “Only a fool would take hubris, refuge or complacency right now. We’ve done everything possible to make this the safest even possible.”
Debris from the Asarco smokestack will remain onsite permanently. It will be put into the ground before it’s sealed. However, the debris will remain above the ground while crews remove metal from inside the concrete. That metal will be scrapped and sold for profit.
Puga said the debris posed no threat to the environment citing multiple tests done on the smokestacks ahead of this weekend’s demolition.