Thursday, April 11, 2013

ASARCO Demolition

On April 13th 2013 at 6:30am the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) Copper smelting towers in El Paso, Texas will undergo controlled demolition.  Two towers dominate this site; the tallest of the towers is 828 ft and the second tower is 612 feet tall.  This site was active starting in 1887 as a lead smelter, in 1911 it was modified to smelt copper ore, then modified once again in 1948 to smelt zinc ore.  This site was "suspended" in 1999 after ASARCO declared bankruptcy and has been in legal limbo since the shutdown.  This legal limbo of the property is mostly due to the process that is used when refining copper, lead and zinc, the elements involve the use of lead, zinc, cadmium, and arsenic.  These harmful elements could result in negative health effects that could come about once this area is disturbed; for either housing, recreational, or any project that involves soil movement and disturbance of the area surrounding the smelting plant.

The New Mexico Climate Center witch is located at New Mexico State University headed by the New Mexico State Climatologist Dave Dubois, along with his graduate students Rebecca Armenta, Elizabeth Smith, Yizhi Zhao, and staff member Stan Engle plan on performing air quality measurements near the demolition project.

Visual observations will be performed by videotaping the event from 2 locations (EPA offices and UTEP) in El Paso,TX.  Air measurements will be collected at the location of the EPA offices in El Paso and include a Davis weather station to monitor weather, and fungal plates to collect fungi species in the air.   We are planning to collect PM10 concentrations at this location and in Cd. Juarez south of the demo zone.  So far the Juarez Minivol location looks to be well placed based on forecast wind patterns from the north at about 10 mph.  The Minivol Teflon filters from El Paso and Cd. Juarez will be sent to the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada for elemental analysis.  Below is our Minivol sampler in preparation in out office.

We hope this event will be non-eventful and will produce healthy readings for those in the area.  There will be an enormous amount of data after this event, not only from the NMCC but also UTEP engineering department, the contractor, TCEQ, Juarez Air Quality, and numerous other agencies' conducting their own collections.  We hope to have some analysis of this event in a few weeks.

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