EL PASO, Texas (AP) — People in this West Texas city spent decades trying to close a massive copper plant they said spewed fumes that made their eyes teary, their lungs burn. Workers got sick and blamed the company. A hill near a college campus gradually turned black as the towering smokestacks churned out heavy emissions year after year.
The people claimed victory when the ASARCO copper smelter finally shut down in 1999. Now, more than a decade later, some who opposed the plant are banding together in a long-shot effort to prevent the demolition of the plant’s iconic smokestacks that have dominated the local skyline for nearly half a century. The chimneys, they say, are a mark of the city’s industrial heritage and should be preserved as a monument to workers who fell ill due to toxic materials incinerated at the sprawling site.
“I want them to stay as a reminder that people in a democracy can stand up like David to Goliath and win,” said Daniel Arellano, a former acid plant operator who suffers from myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood and bone marrow disease, after working at the plant from 1975-1999.
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