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Demolition Delayed On Remaining Asarco Stacks

The debate over whether to preserve the iconic Asarco stacks is heating up as the trustee in charge of the old smeltering site delays the stacks’ scheduled demolition date.

Thursday afternoon the Asarco trust held a community meeting at the El Paso Public Library downtown to discuss the delay and presented a list of conditions required to keep the stacks from coming down.

“The stack issue has been contentious from the beginning,” said Roberto Puga. Two of the stacks were already knocked down in September. The remaining two were scheduled to come down in February 2012.

Puga said he has decided to delay the remaining stacks’ demolition to early 2013 in response to a new push by some El Pasoans to save the stacks.

“There will be no extensions on this 12-month period,” said Puga.

Puga said the stacks will come down unless the community meets recently released requirements.

Those requirements are listed on the Asarco trust website:

“Here are the conditions imposed on the one year waiting period:

1.There needs to be a legal entity established to take possession of the stacks. 2.The legal entity must demonstrate the financial strength to undertake ownership of the stacks. (It is estimated to cost approximately $14 million over the long term to preserve and stabilize the tallest stack on the Asarco site; there has been no evaluation of the costs to preserve the shorter stack). 3.The legal entity must have the ability to indemnify the Trust and the Trust beneficiaries. 4.The legal entity must demonstrate that both stacks have the structural integrity necessary to remain on the site. This demonstration must be performed by a professional structural engineer that is licensed to practice in Texas, and the engineer’s report must be stamped.”

The group of El Pasoans who must find a way to meet these conditions is headed by restaurant owner Rovert Ardovino and president of Hunt Development Gary Sapp. Ardovino said he sees economic opportunities and historical value in keeping the stacks.

However, many at the meeting wanted the stacks to come down for good– among them, several ex-Asarco workers left sickened by the refinery’s reprehensible safety practices.

“Will the stack on its own tell the history of Asarco– the good and the bad? The answer is no,” said Veronica Carbajal, an attorney who works with ex-Asarco workers.

Ardovino appealed directly to the workers toward the end of the meeting by telling them turning the stacks into a monument could be a healing experience for the community. “This is not a monument to (represent) everyone that got sick over this damn company. It’s a monument because the company is not here any longer. This is a monument to you all, this is a monument to us over them,” said Ardovino.

Those who want to save the stacks have until Nov. 4, 2012 to meet the requirements spelled out by the Asarco trust. No future meetings have been scheduled so far.

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