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Special Project: America's Wall: Decades-Long Struggle To Secure US-Mexico Border

Iconic Smokestacks Demolished In El Paso

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A pair of smokestacks that dominated the skyline between the border cities of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez are no more.

Photo by Mónica Ortiz Uribe

A pair of smokestacks that dominated the skyline between the border cities of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez are no more.

— A pair of smokestacks that dominated the skyline between the border cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez are no more.

The iconic relics were torn down by a demolition crew Saturday morning as part of a multi-year remediation plan of El Paso's former ASARCO smelter plant.

At more than 800 feet, the tallest ASARCO smokestack towered higher than the Washington Monument and the St. Louis Arch. Hundreds of border residents rose before sunup to witness the fall from rooftops to hillsides.

ASARCO's more than 100-year-old history in El Paso is two-faced. The smelter is known as both a major economic powerhouse and a dangerous polluter.

Greg Matthews, a local doctor, was among the crowd of spectators.

"I noticed a lot of people weren't clapping," he said. "Other people were cheering, so it was sort of a mixed emotion like should we be happy or sad?"

Raymundo Rios was sad. He said his brother died at age 33 from exposure to asbestos and lead after working for ASARCO only a few years. Rios would sometimes visit him at the smelter.

"And I (would) come to bring lunch to my brother and he was working in the top of the tower," he said.

In a bankruptcy settlement four years ago ASARCO left some $2 billion to clean up 80 sites around the country. The company still has operating plants in Arizona and Texas.

ASARCO Demolition in El Paso

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