EL PASO, TX – March 23, 2011 – This Saturday, former employees of the ASARCO El Paso plant, as part of the Ex-ASARCO Workers coalition, will identify five unlined dumpsites on the ASARCO property that continue to contaminate the area and pose serious risks to the public health. Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), and a Trustee in charge of remediating the site will be present.
The EPA has informed the Ex-ASARCO Workers that the media will not be allowed to participate in the site visit. As a result, a press briefing will be held at the ASARCO site on Saturday, March 26 starting at 1:00 pm.
“When we first told the EPA about the hidden dumpsite in November, we thought they would be on the next plane to El Paso to investigate,” said Carlos Rodriguez, lead organizer of the Ex-ASARCO Workers. “We were wrong. Clearly, the continued contamination of this property is not a high priority.”
The unlined dumpsites sit on the El Paso property where ASARCO operated a copper smelter and handled military hazardous waste for more than 100 years. The former workers contend that they were instructed to dig pits on the property and bury contaminated materials throughout their employment. They did not place any lining that would prevent the contaminants from leaching into groundwater sources. Current plans for the property call for covering up the areas where the sites are located, rather than sampling and remediating them.
Recently the Ex-ASARCO Workers have also raised concerns that the future of the site includes plans to sell land where known ASARCO dumpsites exist, including an area east of I-10, for use as residences.
“We cannot believe that this land is going to be sold and turned into a residential area and a hiking trail. We know this area has been contaminated and there is no proof that the site is clean enough for families to live there and for children to play there,” said Mario Navarez, a member of the Ex-ASARCO Workers.
The Ex-ASARCO Workers are asking other former ASARCO employees and their spouses to contact them if they have information that would help protect the community from continued environmental pollution. Individuals can contact 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.