Asarco Stacks Could Become City Property

Fate of stacks possibly decided Tuesday

EL PASO, Texas - The TCEQ has ruled that if a deal is not brokered by December 4, where another party would purchase and refurbish the chimneys so that they are no longer an environmental hazard, they would have to be demolished.

Environmental studies have shown that the heavy metals remaining in the stacks are a hazard, due to the fact that when it rains, the metals seep into the groundwater, eventually flowing into the Rio Grande.

"I think the property is big, it's iconic, it's well situated," trustee Roberto Puga said. "We're not talking a cheap piece of property, it's going to be worth into the eight figures at least."

Puga is the person who must sell the stacks and the property on which they reside. He says that due to liability issues, the purchaser of the stacks would have to buy the surrounding 153 acres of land along with them.

Architect Geoffrey Wright , president of Save the Stacks, says the purchase price Puga is suggesting is far too high. It would take millions of dollars to refurbish the land to meet environmental codes as well as what it would cost to clean up the stacks.

Wright says until the land is stripped and brought up to environmental code it is unusable for most developmental purposes.

The smelter, which was erected in 1899, was shut down in the 1990s after public outcry and complaints of toxic emissions from the plant.

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