By Cassie McClure
Published in Las Cruces Sun-News 05.08.22
When property owners called 811 to find the locations of any underground utilities lines before they would dig and maybe hit them, Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) would have two specific teams come locate either gas or water and wastewater lines. LCU will now be combining efforts into one team to enhance efficiency, to protect the integrity of the utility systems, and to increase customer safety.
“By combining the group, it will present a more streamlined process,” said LCU Gas Locating & Mapping Supervisor Joe Atencio. “One individual will be able mark all our utilities in one work order. That cuts down our costs in man-hours, equipment, fuel costs, and any other costs associated with that type of service.”
Atencio explained that while water, wastewater, reclaimed water, and gas might differ in responsibilities, cross-training has gone smoothly to be able to complete more requests. “Not all requests are the same,” he said. “It may be a contractor rehabilitating an intersection or street for blocks or it might be a homeowner wanting to add a driveway.”
Calling 811 and having LCU come out is a completely free service for anyone in Las Cruces.
“It's beneficial to the customer, whether that's a contractor or homeowner, to know where these utilities are because it lessens the chance of potential damage, which could affect somebody in their neighborhood,” said Atencio. “Even if it’s a phone line hit, the elderly couple down the road might only have a landline to call 911. If you hit a water line, there could be needless water loss. With a gas line, it could ignite and do far worse.”
He said that when customers sign up for service, the safety of the line from the meter to the street is the responsibility of LCU, as mandated by state laws and regulations.
“We are responsible to the Public Regulatory Commission and our ratepayers to protect the integrity of our system,” Atencio said. “We do that by performing locates or even through patrolling, which is part of our job. If we see someone digging within their yard and don’t see locate marks, we'll be proactive in our approach and contact them and advise them. Our eight locators are our first line of defense in protecting the integrity of our utility infrastructure,, all day, every day.”
Atencio said that the best tip he has is to schedule your call if you have plans for a weekend dig. “If you want to start a project on a Saturday, digging up an old tree or putting in a new garden path, your best bet is to call 811 no later than Wednesday,” he said. “We have two working days, which don’t include holidays or weekends, by law to get out there. On the call, they will give you the exact time you can start your project, and we’ll be there to show you where the lines are and make sure that you stay safe.”
LCU – Your Utility Connection. Customer Central can be reached at 575-541-2111 from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides clean, safe, and reliable services to Las Cruces residents and businesses. Learn more at: las-cruces.org/180/Utilities
For emergencies, call Dispatch at 526-0500.
PHOTO 1: LCU Gas Line Locator Enrique Arzabal marks the lines on a street that points out existing gas lines in new development areas.