Steps to be taken following the demolition of the Asarco smoke stacks
The Asarco smoke stacks are set to come down April 13, but that is only the beginning of the remediation process.
The actual demolition of the stacks is considered phase one in a four phase project to rehabilitate the former El Paso smelter site.
Once the stacks are down, the next two phases involve clean up.
Phase two and three are known as soil and ground water remediation.
According to Roberto Puga, the Site Custodial Trustee, this process may take until 2015.
“The site was used as a smelter for more than a hundred years and during that time it generated a tremendous amount of waste,” he said.
Included in that waste, Puga said “...arsenic, cadmium, lead, and other toxic materials” have been left behind in a material called slag.
The plan is to crush the concrete stacks once they fall. Then, crews will separate the fallen material into groups. The rebar will be salvaged from the stacks and sold.
"We're building a waste cell for the hazardous waste we have on site and we'll be building an engineered monofill cover where we're standing over the entire property for the other waste,” Puga said.
The cells will act as vaults, isolating potential hazards from the environment, according to Puga.
“For ground water, we are cleaning it in place and preventing clean ground water from ever becoming impacted," Puga said.
He explained the covers, which will hold in the crushed material will also stop any harmful contaminants from seeping into the ground water supper.
While the official clean-up will be completed in a few years, the job will never be entirely over.
"We will have to continue monitoring and maintaining the waste cells and monofill cover and the ground water clean-up systems for decades into the future,” Puga said.
According to him, the goal of the trust is to prepare the land for sale. Most of the land will not be suitable for residential development, due to the materials left on the site encased in the cell landfills and monofill covers.
"I think the consensus was that some sort of high-density, mixed-use commercial retail, light industrial, perhaps with some sort of entertainment center or arena or stadium, be built here," he explained.
Just across Interstate-10, Puga said a small portion of the site may be cleaned up to residential standards through a process called clean closure.
Online at recastingthesmelter.com, renderings of possible commercial and residential set-ups have been posted.
Puga told ABC-7 he has spoke with the historical commission about possibly leaving a portion of the stack on site as a monument, but this has not been finalized.