By Cassie McClure
Published in the Las Cruces Bulletin 08/21/20.
Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) monitors the water quality throughout the city in its own state-of-the-art laboratory off Motel Boulevard. It’s not just a place for testing, it’s also a place for learning. LCU participates in a co-op (co-operative) teaching environment with Doña Ana Community College to bring students into the lab.
Rakhila Mamenova, a DACC student, spends 20 hours a week at the City of Las Cruces Utilities Water Quality Laboratory. She’s getting hands-on training that supplements her in-class experiences, but also allows her to use her biology degree in real world scenarios. Since March, even with COVID, she is learning the “why” behind specific wastewater sampling and testing, instead of just the details of how those tests should be run.
“Right now, I’m currently checking the total suspended solids, but there are so many things that I do here,” said Mamenova. “You feel like you’ll never stop learning because there is so much. I go back to my textbook at night and understand the why, the reason we need to do the tests, because I was able to do it in the lab.”
Mamenova’s paid co-op with DACC and LCU allows her to see and help with federally mandated testing for LCU and to test for contaminants like Biochemical Oxygen Demand, Total Dissolved Solids, and Chlorine Residuals that could potentially harm the environment at higher concentrations. The Water Quality Laboratory is located near the Jacob A. Hands Wastewater Treatment Facility, a crucial part of the treatment process for the waste that the city produces.
“The treatment of water has become much more technical, so it’s important that they learn in a situation that would make sense with what they’d see on the job,” said Luis Guerra, LCU water quality lab manager. “It’s a matter of safety for our customers and the environment since we release the treated water back into the Rio Grande.”
“It’s a great experience in meeting people who are knowledgeable about what they do, but it also helps move your career forward by having the experiences that you can point back to,” said Mamenova.
LCU can be reached at 575-528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
PHOTO 1: Rakhila Mamenova is a DACC student who is working at the LCU Water Quality Laboratory to supplement her education and career goals.