Funding for Asarco demolition broken down by site trustee

Who's footing the bill for the Asarco cleanup?

EL PASO, Texas - The demolition of the Asarco smoke stacks, and subsequent cleanup of the site, requires a large amount of funding, according to the site trustee Roberto Puga.

"The funding from the clean up came from the Asarco bankruptcy settlement," Puga said. "Asarco put away money into the bankruptcy court and titles to the properties that it affected across the county in return for a release from liability. Then, working with the state agency and DOJ and EPA, each site was allocated a certain amount of money and title to the property to effectuate the clean up."

The bankruptcy court, alongside the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality and other federal agencies, allocated $52 million to the Asarco demolition in El Paso. This came following the bankruptcy settlement in 2009.
During this time, the trust was also set.

"As we went along, it became clear that if we wanted to leave the site in the condition that it could be reused as the city had envisioned, that the remedy had to be a little bit bigger," Puga said.

According to Puga, this weekend's demolition is estimated to cost between $1.6 and $2 million.

Additional phases of cleanup, including the groundwater remediation and soil remediation, will require additional funds.

As a result, the trust began salvaging material from the property.

The largest sale came from smelting material left behind on the site, called matte. The matte rounded up around $18 million Puga said.

Some material was sold to foreign companies, such as lead found in a sulfuric acid plant on site.

"In an acid plant you have to clad everything in lead," Puga said. "Well there was a lot of lead so we sold the lead to a company in India to be re-used in making batteries."

That lead sold for around $1 million.

In addition, an oxygen plant was purchased by a company out of Australia. The plant was broken down, and shipped to South Africa to be redeveloped. The plant sold for just under $2 million.

Puga said rail lines from the site sold for $250,000.

Millions more, according to Puga, were gathered from the sale of scrap materials and equipment.

Altogether, the assets sold totaled around $28 million, Puga said.

Puga also estimated a few thousand more tons of matte will be sold for a couple of million dollars, and around $300,000 worth of rebar will be sold from the fallen stacks.

The money will be used to continue the site's cleanup and monitoring.

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