Asarco, feds and state propose $52 million cleanup agreement for El Paso and Amarillo
by Sito Negron
Posted on March 26, 2009
The plan to clean up the Asarco site in El Paso has been set at $52 million, according to a proposed settlement between the company and the federal and state governments.
The 98-page plan, which can be viewed via the link below this article, will be available for public review and comment for 30 days. A more detailed breakdown of the cleanup cost estimates, prepared by the state, also can be viewed via link below this article. The public notice can be viewed below this article.
State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, who has been a leading critic of Asarco and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which approved the controversial air pollution permit for the company, said that El Pasoans ought to take advantage of the comment period.
"We hope all interested El Pasoans will register comments. With (President Barack) Obama in office, EPA will actually listen to what citizens have to say," he said.
Shapleigh's office explained in a memo that "comments should be sent to: Hal Morris and Ashley Bartram, Assistant Attorneys General, Bankruptcy & Collections Division, Office of the Texas Attorney General, P.O. Box 12548, Austin, Texas 78711-2548, or via facsimile to (512) 482-8341."
The amount of money for the cleanup, $52 million, is far less that an estimate originally given by Shapleigh, who said in an NPT story in February that informal conversations with an EPA official put the actual cost for a full cleanup more along the lines of $250 million.
But El Paso Mayor John Cook said that the deal was about as good as El Paso could expect: "Our consultants think the $52 million will be sufficient if it is done in conjunction with a re-development project. I am pleased that the remediation will be overseen by a conservancy, and not by TCEQ or ASARCO.
"I know the level of funding that is in the consent agreement is not what everyone wanted, but the reality is we are not in the drivers seat at this point. My goal with the smelter was to assure they met state and federal law to get a new permitted facility, not a renewal of a permit for a plant that had been dormant and cannibalized for 10 years.
"The city succeded in that effort. I believe that the state (ie TCEQ) now has a responsibility to reimburse us for the professional expenses the city had to pay in order to assure that TCEQ made ASARCO follow the environmental rules they were supposed to enforce on the behalf of our citizens."
Heather McMurray, whose records requests led to public disclosure about the investigation into the disposal of hazardous waste from Corpus Christi at Asarco, said the proposal is simply a cover-up of longstanding and huge environmental problems left behind by the smelter's 100-year legacy.
"The same people who have covered up the secret-Asarco-contamination are the people who will oversee its clean-up," said McMurray in an e-mail to NPT after request for comment.
"The Bankruptcy Court has continued to ignore the secret-hazardous-waste that the EPA in a confidential-for-settlement-purposes-only document said Asarco burned," McMurray said. "Our environment, our water, our health cannot help but be impacted from 10 years of Asarco's secret and illegal hazardous waste burning." [NPT background]
The Asarco site is described in the order (on page 44) as including more than 400 acres, although the site most commonly associated with the smelter, where the stack is, is shown as being 100 acres at 3125 W. Paisano.
The order describes what work is to be done with the $52 million trust, and what is not to be done:
"With respect to the E1 Paso Smelter Site, the purposes of this Texas Custodial Trust further include: 1) addressing contamination (including without limitation Hazardous Substances) on and in the structures, soils, surface water, and groundwater at such site; and 2) remediating such site to standards that are protective of human health and the environment with the oversight of the TCEQ . No reduction shall be made for expenditures on property not owned by Debtors.
"The Parties further agree that, at a minimum, the following work is not eligible for a reduction of the $52,080,000.00: 1) the remediation of the diesel in the groundwater, including operation, sampling, and analyticals of the diesel recovery system; 2) semi-annual groundwater sampling to monitor the stability of the groundwater plume contaminated with metals and semi-annual surface water sampling to ensure no impacts to surface water; 3) removal and disposal of excess material from Cell #3; and 4) completion of the cap construction for the three repository cells."
Recent NPT stories
Mayor dubs TCEQ 'Texas Commission for the Protection of Polluters;' wants city's $1.4 million back, Posted on February 16, 2009
Asarco asks state to void permits and air applications; what's next?,
Posted on February 6, 2009
The following is a notice from the U.S. Department of Justice regarding a settlement between the US EPA, the state of Texas, and Asarco LLC. For the plan itself, go to this page.
[Federal Register: March 26, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 57)] [Notices] [Page 13227] From the
Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov] [DOCID:fr26mr09-96]
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Notice of Lodging of Proposed Settlement Agreement Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act Notice is hereby given that on March 19, 2009, a proposed Consent Decree and Settlement Agreement regarding two sites in Texas was filed with the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas in In re Asarco LLC, No.
05-21207 (Bankr. S.D. Tex.). The proposed Agreement entered into by the United States (on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency), the state of Texas, and Asarco LLC provides, inter alia, for theestablishment of a custodial trust, the transfer of certain properties to that trust, and funding of the trust with allowed administrative expense claims for administrative and site cleanup costs. The proposed Agreement provides the custodial trust with an allowed
administrative expense claim of $52 million to cover its administrative costs and fund cleanup work at certain properties owned by Asarco in Amarillo and El Paso Texas. The Department of Justice will receive comments relating to the proposed Agreement for a period of thirty (30) days from the date of this publication. Comments should be addressed to the Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources Division, and either e-mailed to 1. firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to P.O. Box 7611, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC 20044-7611, and should refer to In re Asarco LLC, DJ Ref. No. 90-11-3-08633. Commenters may request an opportunity for a public meeting in the affected area, in accordance with Section 7003(d) of RCRA, 42 U.S.C. 6973(d). The proposed Agreement may be examined
at the Office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, 800 North Shoreline Blvd., 500, Corpus Christi, TX 78476-2001, or at the Region 6 Office of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Fountain Place 12th Floor, Suite 1200, 1445 Ross Avenue, Dallas, TX 75202-2733. During the public comment period, the proposed Agreement
may also be examined on the following Department of Justice Web site, http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html. A copy of the proposed agreement may also be obtained by mail from the Consent Decree Library, P.O. Box 7611, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC 20044-7611 or by faxing or e-mailing a request to Tonia Fleetwood
(email@example.com), fax no. (202) 514-0097, phone confirmation number (202) 514-1547. In requesting a copy from the Consent Decree Library, please enclose a check in the amount of $10.25 (without attachments) or $23.50 (with attachments) (25 cents per page reproduction cost) payable to the U.S. Treasury. Maureen Katz, Assistant Section Chief,
Environmental Enforcement Section. [FR Doc. E9-6782 Filed 3-25-09; 8:45 am] BILLING
Most Viewed Stories
- Sex clubs and swingers in El Paso
- Biz Briefs 6.8-12.09: Small business summit; Department of Labor forum
- Bad Moon Rising: The Crisis in Ciudad Juarez
- ABC-7 reporter and photographer handcuffed, detained while covering I-10 wreck
- Houston Elementary School on the chopping block
- Resources for the El Paso gay community
- Pop Stars like JackO, Andy Warhol and Karen O make me proud to be an American
- Calendar of Events: 6.19.09
- 'Crossing Bok Chitto' storyteller speaks Sunday
- Review: IDEA Gallery, "Beyond the 2nd Dimension" Opening