By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
Published in the Las Cruces Sun-News 9/29/19
After he answered the 1:00 a.m. phone call from the serviceman at the scene on Thursday, September 5th…Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) Water Production Supervisor, Vince Castillo, headed out in the middle of the night to E. University Avenue. Water was gushing onto the wide road, one of the main arteries of the city.
The call had first come through 24-hour Utilities Emergency Dispatch at (575) 526-0500. Any Las Cruces resident can call Emergency Dispatch if they suspect any type of Utilities emergency.
Before dawn, Castillo’s LCU crew diagnosed the problem, located the busted water line, and ultimately got themselves into the gushing water and sodden dirt to repair the broken section of pipe. A couple of hours later the repair was completed…and then: “We had another break at 11:00 a.m. just a short distance away on E. University. We pretty much patched everything there. Then the third break happened a little further along University at 5:30 p.m.,” explained Castillo.
Back up to early morning: not only did the LCU crews have the water line break to repair, but back at Emergency Dispatch, there was a call about a nearby apartment
complex without water. "Turns out, part of the apartment complex was fed by the main line," said Castillo.
Because the foremost importance is to make sure that residents and businesses have access to water - with a goal in an emergency of having water up and running in less than 90 minutes - the crews had to create a “jumper,” a temporary line from a nearby fire hydrant to the apartment’s water line. That line can be seen from the street, a blue pipe held down by orange sandbags.
Today, more than 1,300 feet of ductile iron pipe on E. University between Knox Drive and a few hundred feet west of El Paseo Road is being replaced with a different type of high-quality pipe, C-900 PVC piping. Thankfully, a contractor working on another City of Las Cruces project was able to move quickly and switch over to digging up University and replaced the entire pipe; and fortunately, just the right size PVC pipe was available locally.
Why switch to a different type of pipe? A mystery surrounds the failure of the ductile iron pipe that was in the ground. It was slightly over 30-years old but should easily have provided another two decades of service. LCU will be performing its own forensic study to determine why the ductile iron pipe failed.
“I worked on that break from early Thursday morning till Friday morning. Then some more on Friday morning and afternoon,” said LCU Water Line Locator Filiberto Aguirre, Jr. “We all did our best to make sure our customers had water, especially in this hot weather.”
You can reach Las Cruces Utilities at 528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides GAS – WATER – WASTEWATER – SOLID WASTE services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
PHOTO 1: Three sudden water main breaks on E. University Avenue, and then more than 1,300 feet of water pipe is being replaced from Knox Drive west to a few hundred feet west of El Paseo Road.