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Dig wisely, and only flush toilet paper


On average, LCU responds to more than 8,000 calls every year asking for crews to identify underground utilities. Homeowners and contractors need to know where gas pipes and other underground utilities are located before digging.

“With newly laid pipe, a ‘tracer’ line that we can find magnetically will always be added alongside the pipe. But that technology didn’t exist for older construction,” said Joe Atencio, LCU gas locating and mapping supervisor. “When we run into a situation where we don’t have the records showing pipe locations, sometimes ‘fish taping’ is the best solution to find exactly where a customer’s line connects to the city’s main gas line.”

While new technologies generally make things easier, sometimes older methods still save the day in locating underground utilities.

“Fish taping is a last resort before we have to actually have to dig up a pipe to locate it,” Atencio said. He describes it as feeding a gas line tracer through the end of a pipe where it will “ping” an electronic signal to the above-ground crew.

It’s a “last resort,” he said, because it requires shutting off the gas while the crew searches for a pipe. 

Before starting a landscaping or fencing project, patio or deck construction, call 811 to have underground utilities located and marked.

Las Cruces Utilities can be reached at 575-528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.

Watch what you flush! Don’t clog the pipes!

Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) is asking customers to stop flushing paper towels and disinfectant wipes, because they clog drains, back up sewers and cause issues at sewage treatment plants.

John Mrozek, LCU wastewater deputy director, said the word “flushable” appears on a lot of packaging, but it’s misleading – and often false.

“Wipes arrive intact and often wind themselves into ropes that get tangled into wastewater treatment equipment and can break screens that are intended to filter out larger pieces of debris in the wastewater,” Mrozek said.

Dispose of wipes in the trash, he said, and avoid using paper towels as toilet paper.

Wastewater operations worker Carlos Almaraz said wipes can plug up pumps at lift stations and can damage equipment, which necessitates sending crews to vacuum the system.

While toilet paper starts disintegrating as soon as it hits the water, he said, the strong-fiber wipes and paper towels don’t break apart.

Service lines from homes into the city’s sewer lines are less than four inches in diameter, with sharp bends in the lines, where clogs occur, creating backups from the sewer line into the home.


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