EL PASO, Texas - The Environmental Protection Agency released a statement on Thursday morning stating it was satisfied with the precautions being taken by the ASARCO trust regarding with the smokestacks demolition on Saturday.
El Paso's ASARCO facility operated as a lead smelter and refinery from 1887 to the late 1990s. The smelter has been inoperative for several years, with negotiations and planning for cleanup of the site occurring since then. In December 2009, ASARCO signed an agreement guiding the course of the cleanup, which will be lead by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
On April 5, 2013, the Trustee released the final chimney demolition plan for the former ASARCO smelter site. The final plan included consideration of comments from EPA and TCEQ. Useful information, along with a copy of the final demolition plan, is available at the Recasting the Smelter website.
"EPA has reviewed the Trustee's demolition plan for stacks at ASARCO," said Ron Curry, EPA regional administrator. "We believe the plan includes the appropriate steps necessary to be protective of both the environment and people living in the area. EPA will have people on-site before, during and after the demolition. Following the demolition, EPA and State officials will evaluate compliance with the plan."
Congressman Beto O'Rourke, who has written two letters to the EPA expressing his concerns, responded to the EPA's statement on Thursday afternoon.
"In the last several weeks, I have been in regular contact with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), including the Region 6 Administrator and EPA officials in Washington, to address concerns surrounding the ASARCO demolition and site remediation," O'Rourke said in a statement. "My main priority is protecting public health, ensuring the safe remediation of the site and protecting the adjacent Rio Grande River. I believe the EPA shares these priorities and I am pleased that they have answered the questions raised by the community and my office. They have expressed to me their commitment to a safe and complete remediation of the site and to assuring that all funds in the trust are used for that purpose going forward. I plan to work with the EPA to make sure they fulfill their unique obligation as a beneficiary of the trust."