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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Contract not Renewed

Found out today that I am banned from teaching in not only the YISD District but also Socorro because YISD voted to not renew my contract last May. It becomes a black-mark on your record with the bigger districts - they have so many candidates that they don't even ask the details. It doesn't matter that the Principal resigned and left; and, it doesn't matter that coincidently both my H.S. administrator and the school board member who first moved to terminate me either ran the water district for 25 years or are married to the current general manager of the same. Or, that all the punitive steps (the write-up and the scheduling to get the memorandum of termination) happened within about 3 days of contacting certain people in the EPWU about our concerns on water quality (1st instance, we got data that they insisted that they never had; 2d instance, a letter to the El Paso Inc. outlining the water contamination). Coincidence?

There was another punitive step: removing me on administrative leave for a never-named charge, and simultaneously barring me from communicating with anyone in the District. Fellow teachers just knew that I'd suddenly disappeared. I wish that it was as easy to get Asarco contamination to disappear.

I am the only H.S. science teacher involved in trying to find out what Asarco contaminated us with. The only one, in the entire region. I have 4 years teaching experience on the college level (labs), and students who told me that I was the best teacher that they'd ever had; but, can't get past that black mark on the record. Had I been willing to resign, I was told that I could be set up with several interviews - one with SISD. So the black mark has nothing to do with my teaching ability and everything to do with me speaking out when I saw racism and when I see environmental racism in this community.

Was the problem with my teaching (which I was told was typical for a 1st yr h.s. teacher) or was the problem that I spoke out? A friend who has worked on the Asarco contamination problem in her community with me, told me when I called about the termination, "Well, you expected it, No?"
Her community and the children have been literally sacrificed for 3 generations to Asarco contamination. When the Board (2 against because there was no evidence, 2 for (one now facing FBI investigation), and 1 who voted against me not because I had done anything wrong but instead on a technicality) many of the children from the community came to support me. Even with a contract termination and blacklisting, my life is far easier than those kids' lives and they give me courage I would not otherwise have. They are wonderful children in Anapra/Sunland Park. So were my students at Bel Air - excellent caring kids.

A 2001 post about Newspaper/Journalism teachers describes my own situation in teaching real science to kids (Chapter 1 of our state-approved text covered the topic of "conflict of interest" and ethics in science):

"...As Nelson’s example shows, it is possible to stand up to authority without paying the price of your employment. But one adviser who was not so lucky, and has suffered as a result, warned advisers that they should know the risks that come from taking principled positions.

“Tell your students the whole truth; they make decisions that will affect very much the rest of your life,” Lach-Smith said. “We try to teach students to make responsible editorial decisions because they affect their sources’ lives [and] also whole organizations. I think we often fail to tell them how their decisions affect our lives…. Be prepared to lose in more ways than one.”

As for Ransick, he said his sacrifice may have been well worth the price.

“Oddly enough, I think the students learned the lessons better by watching what happened than they would have in the abstract by reading it in a textbook. They’ve gotten the lesson better than they ever could have otherwise.”

Asarco wins extension in trial

"...Asarco wins extension in trial
Tucson-based Asarco LLC, a bankrupt copper producer, won a 90-day extension of its exclusive right to file a reorganization plan, according to a company lawyer, Jack Kinzie. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Richard S. Schmidt in Corpus Christi, Texas, ruled Friday that Asarco has until Nov. 12 to file a reorganization plan, Kinzie said.
Asarco has about 1,800 Arizona employees and operates the Mission mine near Sahuarita, the Silver Bell mine west of Marana, the Ray mine near Kearny and the Hayden smelter 30 miles north of Oracle...."

Friday, July 20, 2007

FL: residential limit for arsenic in soil or fill is 2.1 milligrams per kilogram

"...But the lake's shrinkage has also left a monumental cleanup headache: a bathtub ring of toxic sludge from dumped wastewater and the objects hurled in by hurricanes and litterbugs. The slimy gray lining, if not a silver one, is that the drought has given water managers an opportunity to scoop out the muck and refresh the shoreline habitat for Okeechobee's flora and fauna. In little more than two months, contractors with the South Florida Water Management District have hauled away 2 million cubic yards of sludge — enough to fill nine football stadiums from the field to the nosebleed seats, said Tom Debold, water district supervisor on the muck-removal project. After the muck was scraped and temporarily stored in 20-foot-high mounds set back from the shore, scientists discovered that much of it contains excessive levels of arsenic from pesticides and fertilizers used until the 1960s. Water district and Army Corps of Engineers officials who maintain much of the lake's surrounding levee and its intricate network of canals, sluices and pumps had hoped to sell the excavated sludge to builders for landfill. But after analysis, they concluded that "it can't be used near any kind of housing facility," said Susan Gray, a biologist and deputy director of watershed management for the district. The residential limit for arsenic in soil or fill is 2.1 milligrams per kilogram; the Okeechobee muck had as much as 9 milligrams per kilogram, Gray said. The concentration of arsenic, which cannot be treated or neutralized, is intensifying as water evaporates from the sludge and the desiccated piles compress. Removal of the muck has allowed fresh shoots of bulrush and tape grass to sprout and will improve the habitat for the bass and crappie that draw thousands of anglers to the lake each year.... --,1,1305309.story?coll=la-headlines-nation from: Okeechobee's treasures and toxic muck Archeologists gather clues to South Florida history as water managers work to clean up the sludge left by drought. By Carol J. Williams, Times Staff Writer July 19, 2007

12.5 million instead of 200 million... @ 5% of estimated liability

"...Experts for Asarco estimated the company's liabilities would have been $14 million, far less than the U.S. estimate of more than $200 million. Under the settlement, the company will pay $12.5 million to Colorado and the United States. Shelby Jordan, a lawyer for Asarco with Jordan, Hyden, Womble, Culbreth & Holzer in Corpus Christi, didn't return a call for comment. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Richard S. Schmidt in Corpus Christi is scheduled to hear Asarco's motion to approve the settlement next Friday...."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Reply from Carlos Rubinstein : Complaint remains unanswered and dismissed

To: Carlos Rubinstein
fr: Heather McMurray

sb: Requests not considered as a complaint

I am amazed, Mr. Rubinstein, that my complaint asking the TCEQ to sample and identify chemical compounds left here from the illegal sham-recycling by Asarco is not regarded as a complaint. After all, those chemicals were deposited here from nearly a decade of sham-recycling and the environmental regulatory agencies have not looked for these. I want the toxic waste that was deposited here by the illegal actions investigated. The chemical analyses I asked for would let us know what was smelted here - why would that a huge problem for our environmental regulatory officials? If you cannot accept requests for testing under "complaints" then why did you ignore the complaint's text stating that illegal sham-recycling was done here and there is unknown contamination that needs addressed? I am reporting contamination to TCEQ through the complaint option, because that contamination has not been measured/addressed in our community.

1) The consent decree required that the company run spectrometer analyses asap, because historically they hadn't.
2) TCEQ is allowed to request these; you claim that there aren't any.
3) You are telling me that TCEQ refuses to run scientific tests (spectrometer, for example) that would reveal what contamination is there ["These requests are not considered as a complaint according to TCEQ. >"] Instead, all the remediation analyses you refer to looked for metals that Asarco would have been able to smelt/sell.
4) The 100 year old central Pond at Asarco is historically known, and even featured on postcards. You are not familiar with this pond? It handled all the circulating wastewater recovered as part of their storm and waste-water handling and routed it to the brine concentrator that was rated to removed radioactive waste.
4) "released some stormwater..." It was not "some" It was over 200,000 gallons, it spilled into our drinking water and the incident was never sent to EPA to enter in their spill database so that NOAA could respond with an ORR which they are legally allowed to do since that spill also entered the Rio Grande.
5) As you pointed out, all the TCEQ records for Asarco are on file with the Regional Office and they tell us that they do not have Asarco El Paso's EMS (environmental management report). Why is that missing?
6) "US Ecology is required to know what type of waste they receive for disposal. The agency is not required to receive analytical data of ASARCO’s waste. " TCEQ is allowed by law to request the analysis on file with TX US Ecology. The manifests TCEQ sent me were general and did not characterize the hazardous wastes -- in order to determine that the shipment was not radioactive (whereupon TX US Ecology should ship it to its other facility in WA state) that test had to be run. It is missing.
7) "The TCEQ has previously responded to your Public Information Act requests on the same subject." TCEQ continues to evade and not answer the question: What is here in El Paso from the burning of toxic-waste for profit by Asarco. Since we know that toxic waste was illegally and deliberately burned here for profit and the TCEQ continues to evade PIA's, I am assuming that the TCEQ is not giving me all the information available under the PIA, and I wish to direct the OAG's office to this continuing dilemma.
8) I believe that I have a letter from the Regional Director telling me that they do not cap; yet you use that term to describe remediation for one of the ponds.
9) Mr. Rubinstein, I am concerned that you do not treat my request for a scraping of the main stack seriously. You wrote that this, "would not be representative of overall emissions from the site". I am not talking about overall emissions. I am asking that the TCEQ use all options, including that one, to determine what toxic wastes we have been contaminated with. Since TCEQ does not possess any stack samples at all from Asarco El Paso, this omission is glaring.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [Fwd: Re: Please explain no answer to either TCEQ filing: TCEQ failing to enforce identification and
Date: Wed, 18 Jul 2007 19:55:03 -0500
From: Carlos Rubinstein <CRubinst[at]>
July 18, 2007


Re: ASARCO-El Paso facility

Dear Ms. McMurray:
This letter is in response to your June 23, 2007 email to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) internet site that receives complaints from citizens across the state. Your email states that you were filing a formal complaint asking the agency to conduct very specific technical analyses at ASARCO.
First, you asked the TCEQ to run a full spectrometer analysis of the material dredged from the bottom of the 100 year old ASARCO pond and that was sent to TX US Ecology near Robstown for storage, with the purpose of identifying the chemical compounds left from the illegal sham recycling by ASARCO. Second, you asked TCEQ to conduct a full spectrometer analysis of the present bottom of the 100 year old pond and where the most runoff would have contacted soil during the September 4, 2006 collapse of the ASARCO rubber lake. Third, you asked staff to run an analysis from a scraping of the ASARCO primary smoke stack and from the ionics brine concentrator’s concentrate chambers. Finally, you stated that the analysis should include ash incineration technique to check for alpha and beta particles. These requests are not considered as a complaint according to TCEQ.
Nevertheless, your requests indicate that there is confusion as to the identification of various ponds, the removal and disposal of solid waste, and sampling requirements, analyses, and results at the ASARCO El Paso Smelter. Thus, we are providing additional information in an attempt to clarify the issues.

There are several ponds at ASARCO. Staff confirms that ASARCO has three ponds that the company has investigated (Pond 1, Pond 5, and Pond 6) at the El Paso smelter. The water in Pond 6 has been used primarily for general supply, stormwater collection, anode cooling and fire water supply. Pond 5 was used for boiler feed backup and some stormwater collection. Pond 1’s primary function is for stormwater collection.
ASARCO has investigated these three ponds and has performed remedial actions in relation to these ponds. The TCEQ Remediation Division staff has reviewed the characterization of ASARCO’s site and is currently monitoring ASARCO’s remediation activities. ASARCO’s analyses of sediments from these ponds can be found in ASARCO El Paso Copper Smelter Remedial Investigation Report Phases I (October 1998 Vol 1), Phase II (July 2000 Vol 1), and Phase III (November 2001 Vol 1). These reports will also contain plats which will have the location of these ponds so you can correctly identify the pond of concern. The sediments from these ponds are dried on-site and disposed of in an engineered repository (i.e. landfill). The repository is lined and will have a cap and subsequent groundwater monitoring when completed. This documentation is available for public viewing at our El Paso Regional Office.
In addition, ASARCO has a large stormwater collection pond called the “rubber lake” a term that you use in your email. Since El Paso receives an average of 8 inches of rain a year, the rubber lake is dry most of the time. During the El Paso flood event of 2006, the rubber lake overtopped and released some stormwater. However, the liner for the rubber lake remained intact. The TCEQ El Paso Regional staff has oversight of the rubber lake and not agency Remediation staff. To date, the TCEQ staff have not received any sediment sample results from ASARCO of the rubber lake.
Next, you asked about waste sent to US Ecology from ASARCO. As you may recall, the TCEQ previously provided documents to you relating to a number of shipments that ASARCO sent to US Ecology, with accompanying waste manifests. These documents show that hazardous waste was sent off-site for permanent disposal. No analysis of this waste is provided to the TCEQ. This waste is from ASARCO’s process and includes the following: 1) wash down water, 2) cleanup activities, 3) sludges, and 4) brine waste from the wastewater treatment plant. ASARCO is responsible for characterizing their waste which is shipped offsite. US Ecology is required to know what type of waste they receive for disposal. The agency is not required to receive analytical data of ASARCO’s waste.

The waste analysis records do not contain spectrometer analysis per se because the agency does not require the facility or the Company receiving the waste to submit that information to the agency.

This is in compliance with 30 TAC Chapter 335 Subchapter R:

Persons who generate industrial solid waste or municipal hazardous waste shall comply with the provisions of this subchapter. . . . Persons who generate waste in Texas shall classify their own waste according to the standards set forth in this subchapter and may do so without any prior approval or communication with the agency other than notification of waste generation activities pursuant to §335.6 of this title (relating to Notification Requirements) and submittal of required documentation pursuant to §335.513 of this title (relating to Documentation Required).
A reading of Section 335.313 includes cross references to Section 335.511. Section 335.511 requires a company to maintain a list of chemical constituents found in its waste but does not require specific documentation to support its results. Information regarding waste analysis of materials that have been deposited in approved on-site waste repositories as a result of ongoing on site remediation activities can be found in Phase I through Phase IV of the “remedial investigation reports” available for review at the El Paso Regional Office. Spectrometer analysis (paper read-out) has not been located/identified in the TCEQ records regarding waste analysis to determine an appropriate disposal method for excavated material that may have been shipped off-site.
Regarding your request for analysis of scrapings of the ASARCO primary smoke stack and from the ionics brine concentrator’s concentrate chambers; this type of analysis is also not required in as much as the findings and results would not be representative of overall emissions from the site.

The TCEQ has previously responded to your Public Information Act requests on the same subject. Legal staff copied several boxes of files and sent them to the El Paso Office for your review. Please contact Ms. Sally Williams in our El Paso Regional Office at (915) 834-4949 when you are ready to review the information.

Carlos Rubinstein, Area Director

Field Operations Division
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pirates of Penzance Song, modified

[disclaimer:all resemblances to persons are purely coincidental]
[author: anonymous]

To be sung to the tune of the Gilbert and Sullivan
[Pirates of Penzance]
I am the very model of a modern Major-General

TITLE: I Am the Very Model of an Environmental Manager

I Am the Very Model of an Environmental Manager
I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral
I know the kings of Mining, and I quote the lies historical
-- From Arsenic to Cadmium, in order categorical!

I'm very well acquainted, too, with matters quite Political
I understand exaggeration, both the simple and hyperbole
About toxic waste now I'm teeming with a lot o' news
With many cheerful facts about how gardens grow now with its use!

[Chorus sings:]
With many cheerful facts about how gardens grow now with its use-
With many cheerful facts about how gardens grow now with its use-
With many cheerful facts about how gardens grow now with its use-

I'm very good at integral and differential calculus
To show how toxic waste now could not possibly ever injure us -
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral
I Am the Very Model of an Environmental Manager
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral
He is the Very Model of an Environmental Manager


To be sung to tune of "Don't cry for me Argentina"



2004 Memo with handwritten notes received from EPA Dallas FOIA (Terry Sykes office) showing Asarco contaminated Hueco Bolson

EPA sampling dilemma - the Smoking Gun Memo

[Fwd: Re: Please explain no answer to either TCEQ filing: TCEQ failing to enforce identification and cleanup of contamination from illegal burning of

Dear TCEQ:

Not everyone and not all offices at the TCEQ are complicit in the cover-up. It is time that the honest people in the TCEQ (and in the EPA) removed the dishonest ones so that we can get to the bottom of the problem here in El Paso regarding contamination from Asarco.

We know that a cover-up was committed. We are in the process in El Paso of approaching several county and a district attorney regarding the criminal actions of Asarco in the burning of secret toxic wastes for profit (sham-recycling). Someone is responsible in the TCEQ and in my opinion your legal departments, instead of replying to me and committing further cover-up, should be investigating the responsible parties within the environmental regulatory agencies and removing them from their position(s).

Asarco is gearing up activity here. Sierra Blanca sludge-land has been purchased by the Texas G.L.O. and is slated to begin accepting sludge again, in the middle of endangered Chihuahuan desert and impoverished mexican-american peoples. Someone in the TCEQ and in the EPA has the knowledge to stop the lies and the ill-gained profits that happened here within Railroad District 8; and to stop using us as a test-case to remove environmental liabilities from a polluter who knowingly used us for toxic-waste disposal.

We need honest disclosure of what metal is present here that has been covered up-- it was knowingly smelted here against the La Paz accord. Your attorneys at one time were aware of what it was, since they argued over whether or not Asarco should pave surfaces for six years or simply let the toxins trickle down through the dirt. We are tired of being a dumping ground and tired of being poisoned. It is the TCEQ's responsibility to know what contaminants are here and let us know.

Thank you,

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Please explain no answer to either TCEQ filing: TCEQ failing to enforce identification and cleanup of contamination from illegal burning of toxic waste by Asarco El Paso
Date: Tue, 17 Jul 2007 15:54:49 -0500
To: <>,<thornton.wood[at]>, "WWW - OPA" <OPA[at]>, "Terry McMillan" <TMCMILLA[at]>
CC: <David.Edmonson[at]>
Ms. M
We are coordinating a response to your questions with our Office of Legal Services. I am expecting a response to be forwarded to you by the end of this week. Let me know if that doesn't happen, and I'll check on it again. Thank you.
[no signature given from the TCEQ Complaint-email-address]
07/13/07 1:35 PM
I have not received a reply to this email and it has been over 12 business days.
Please explain the delay. thank you,
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: TCEQ failing to enforce identification and cleanup of contamination from illegal burning of toxic waste by Asarco El Paso Date: Fri, 22 Jun 2007 23:41:06 -0600
To: TCEQ complaint Fr: Heather McMurray, El Paso TX

sb: TCEQ failing to enforce identification and cleanup of contamination from illegal burning of toxic waste by Asarco El Paso

I am filing this as a formal complaint asking the _TCEQ_ to run a full spectrometer analysis of the material dredged from the bottom of the 100 year old Asarco pond and sent to TX US ecology for storage, with the purpose of identifying the chemical compounds left here from the illegal sham-recycling by Asarco. I also ask that a full spectrometer analysis be done of the present-bottom of that same pond at the Asarco site and where the most runoff would have contacted soil during the 9-4-06 collapse of Asarco rubber lake. Also, please run an analysis from a scraping of the Asarco primary smoke-stack; and from the Ionics brine concentrator's concentrate chambers. This analysis should include ash-incineration-technique to check for alpha and beta particles.

High level officials in the TCEQ and the EPA are violating honest services provision of the mail and wire fraud act by:
* failure to identify and enforce cleanup of the toxic poisons incinerated/stored by Asarco El Paso from its subsidiary in Corpus Christi, TX.
* _pretending to carry on a legitimate permitting process on the El Paso Asarco smelter while continuing to ignore that this site has NOT BEEN DECONTAMINATED from the burning of these wastes_
* failure to identify the wastes left here from this incineration/handling
* failure to explain the resulting health effects to the community

Public officials have known that these toxins are now in our water, the alluvial sediments and aquifer. The TCEQ is failing to continue metal testing of the river below Asarco saying it "isn't necessary any longer". The TCEQ is failing to identify the toxins left in our water supply from the decade of illegal Asarco sham-recycling.

Asarco photostream in Flickr

Sunday, July 15, 2007

smelter-related lead exposure study

Title: Use of a geographic information system to track smelter-related
lead exposures in children: North Lake Macquarie, Australia, 1991–2002
Author: Willmore Alan ; Sladden Tim ; Bates Lucy ; Dalton Craig



To determine patterns of childhood lead exposure in a community living
near a lead and zinc smelter in North Lake Macquarie, Australia between
1991 and 2002.


An analysis of serial blood lead levels (BLL) of children less than 13
years of age in North Lake Macquarie participating in voluntary blood
lead screening. Distance to the smelter and soil lead concentration of
the child's place of residence was calculated. Categorical analysis of
BLL by residential distance from smelter, residential soil lead
concentration, age and year of sample was calculated. Linear regression
models were fit for blood lead levels against residential distance from
smelter, the log of residential soil lead concentration, age and year of
BLL sample.


Geometric mean BLLs were statistically significantly higher for
distances less than 1.5 kilometres from the smelter and for residential
soil lead concentrations greater than 300 ppm. Yearly BLLs since 1995
were statistically significantly lower than for preceding years, with an
average decrease of 0.575 μg/dL per year since 1991. BLLs are
statistically significantly higher for children whose age is 1 to 3
years old. Linear regression modelling of BLL predicted a statistically
significant decrease in BLL of 3.0831 μg/dL per kilometre from the
smelter and a statistically significant increase in BLL of 0.25 μg/dL
per log of lead in residential soil. The model explained 28.2% of the
variation in BLL.


Residential distance to the smelter, log of residential soil lead
concentration, child's age and year of BLL sample are statistically
significant factors for predicting elevated BLLs in children living near
a North Lake Macquarie lead smelter.
Journal: International Journal of Health Geographics
Issn: 1476072X
Year: 2006
Volume: 5
Issue: 1
pages/rec.No: 30

Building homes on smelter site

"...When it comes to talking about the land, prospective buyers are fully informed that Belmonte Heights sits on the former Asarco smelter site.

"We have full disclosure," Snyder said.

The area was home to a smelter that operated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, spewing arsenic that polluted much of the soil. [arsenic is odorless and tasteless; any amount is thought to be harmful according to experts that study it on the cellular level...] That soil had to be cleaned up to Department of Ecology standards when the Everett Housing Authority bought the land from Asarco LLC, a subsidiary of Grupo Mexico SA, in 2004. The City of Everett helped with the cleanup and Dye bought the seven acres for $3.2 million.

Snyder said that some people are familiar with the history when they come to view the homes.

Belmonte Heights has welcomed people of all ages, including seniors who are buying down. Part of that draw could be the lower maintenance.

"It has a lot to do with the quality," Snyder said.

With wainscoting and tile standard in the homes and wide open spaces and views outside, first-time homebuyers looking for a roomy new home can find something from $263,990 to $334,990. The largest home is more than 2,100 square feet."