El Paso City Hall to be demolished on same weekend as ASARCO stacks in mid-April

City Hall to be demolished on same weekend as ASARCO smokestacks

EL PASO, Texas - El Paso City Hall will be demolished at 9 a.m. on April 14.

City officials made the announcement on Tuesday afternoon.

The demolition of City Hall and Insights Museum, which started on Monday, March 11, are being done to make way for the construction of the Triple-A ballpark. The team's season is set to start in April 2014.

El Paso Ballpark Project Engineer said the demolition would be "a controlled explosive demolition." He added that the building may be brought down on its side, in its own parking lot, rather than straight down.

Controlled Demolition, a company that Shubert said has performed explosive demolitions on several Las Vegas hotels, will conduct the City Hall demolition. Grant Mackay out of Houston will haul away what is expected to be  13,000 cubic yards of rubble while recycling the metal.

The cost of the demolition of both buildings is $1.5 million, although Shubert said that could be lowered depending on the amount of recyclable material in the buildings.

Shubert said the announcement came only after the City was comfortable with arrangements with Union Pacific railroad and the Texas Department of Transportation. Train traffic is heavy on Sundays, Shubert said, but not so much in the morning. Interstate 10 is expected to be shut down for a short time on demolition day. Surrounding streets will be shut down as well.

The decision on whether residents in nearby apartment buildings will need to be evacuated will be made at a later day, Shubert said. He added that the best place to view the demolition will be on television. ABC-7 will provide live coverage.

ASARCO's two stacks are scheduled to be demolished on April 13 barring a reprieve. The demolition of the smokestacks and City Hall will be carried live on the city's only weekend morning show, Good Morning El Paso Weekend.

Late last week several local leaders signed a letter expressing their concerns over the upcoming demolition of the smokestacks. That letter has now been sent and received by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality according to Asarco site trustee Roberto Puga.

The letter, signed by Sen. Jose Rodriguez, Rep. Marisa Marquez, County Judge Veronica Escobar and City Rep. Emma Acosta and Susie Byrd, among others, states there are "serious, additional questions regarding the long-term environmental and health consequences of the planned demolition and burial of the stacks."

It goes on ask the question whether "anyone seriously analyzed if it would be better, environmentally, simply to keep the stacks standing and monitor any contaminants going forward?"

ABC-7 spoke with Puga Monday about the letter sent to the TCEQ.

"This site has had more environmental investigations than any other typical site, including the stacks," Puga said. "We have taken three core samples from each stack through the entire thickness (about three feet long). They have been crushed into fine grain and dust and been taken to a certified lab. They are being tested for metals, volatile organic and semi-volatile organic, just to make sure there isn't any sort of issue."

Byrd said many people, including Asarco workers, have worried about landfilling the stacks particularly because of what the shelter has been "belching over the past century."

"The gist of the letter is we want to understand about the environmental impacts of burying the stacks underneath the site, above our water supply, versus preserving the stacks, stabilizing them for decades to come," Byrd said. "But really what is the approach that has the least environmental impact going forward."

Puga told me the core testing was being done before the letter was sent to the TCEQ. He said the results are expected to be available this week and they will be posted on the Recasting the Smelter website as soon as possible.

Puga added that no agency, including the TCEQ, the City of El Paso or the Environmental Protection Agency have told him not to move forward at this point with the April 13 demolition date.

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