FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
EL PASO, Texas – December 6, 2010 – At a press conference this morning former employees of the ASARCO lead-copper smelter in El Paso claimed that the ASARCO properties contain numerous undisclosed illegal waste dumps that pose risks to the public health and demanded that the federal government get involved in the cleanup.
The workers, joined by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) and the Sunland Park Grassroots Environmental Group, released the complete text of their comments on the Bankruptcy Trustee’s draft remediation plans for the ASARCO site and properties. In addition to demanding an investigation of five unreported dumpsites, the workers claim that the plans ignore the potential impact on local residences, schools, and public health. The workers also argue that the plans rely heavily on data provided by ASARCO as opposed to an independent source.
According to Carlos Rodriguez, a former ASARCO employee who suffers from numerous health problems as a result of his employment at the smelter, “Having spoken with dozens of former ASARCO-El Paso workers, we know of five unlined dumpsites that ASARCO used to get rid of contaminants for many years. The authorities do not know about most of these sites. If one of the sites is going to be used for future residences, as the plans suggest, more sampling has to be done and more contaminants have to be tested. ”
The former ASARCO employees also called upon the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take over the oversight of the remediation from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and to declare the site a Superfund site.
Lois Marie Gibbs, Executive Director of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ), released a statement joining the coalition in calling on the federal government to step in. According to Gibbs, “The cheap and dirty cleanup that is starting at the ASARCO site should be halted. The authorities are ignoring evidence of buried waste and pollution. Another environmental injustice is about to be perpetrated on the El Paso community.”
The former ASARCO employees are asking other former employees and their spouses to contact them if they have information that would help protect the community from continued environmental pollution from ASARCO by contacting Veronica Carbajal, attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, at (915) 585-5107.
Established in 1970, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. (TRLA) is a nonprofit organization that provides free civil legal services to low-income and disadvantaged clients in a 68-county service area. TRLA’s mission is to promote the dignity, self-sufficiency, safety and stability of low-income Texas residents by providing high-quality civil legal assistance and related educational services. For more information on Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. and this story visit http://www.trla.org/press/.