By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
Published in The Las Cruces Sun News 07/19/20.
Usually, Gas Workers are honored March 18th. It’s the date of a horrific school explosion in New London, Texas, in 1937. An estimated 300 people died. The New London school board had canceled their natural gas contract for the school and had plumbers tap into a residue gas line for “raw” or “wet” natural gas…because it was less expensive.
The annual salute to Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) gas workers is to honor them for their day-in-and-day-out safe gas distribution to residents of Las Cruces even during the COVID-19 crisis.
The COVID pandemic has rolled over regular routines and plenty of special events. Even at LCU, the Gas Workers Day recognition of 52 gas utility workers was postponed to June. “But we still wanted to make sure that our gas workers are recognized for their efforts,” explained Lucio Garcia, Gas deputy director . “Instead of providing lunch where we all get together and remember why our jobs are so vital, we had to make sure we were distanced and in small groups. But food is still a way to celebrate, even if we’re eating from to go containers and six feet apart.”
Natural gas is an amazing and useful fuel, but in its raw state it is both odorless and colorless. Gas safety measures now include the addition of the recognizable sulfur smell that alerts customers to a gas leak. In 1937 in New London, students and teachers could not smell the gas filling the crawlspace under the school. The spark that triggered the explosion was thought to be from an electric sander.
“That disaster led to the widespread odorization of natural gas and an increased emphasis on safety,” explained Dr. Jorge Garcia, P.E., LCU director. “Safety is the most important thing when it comes to working with something so intrinsic to our lives. Continued training and staying up to date with codes are what our crews do as a natural part of their careers.”
If you ever smell the familiar, sulfur rotten egg smell, or just a strong smell around your gas meter or near your natural gas appliances, give Utilities Emergency Dispatch a call day or night at 575-526-0500.
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: Assistant LCU Director, Delilah Walsh, hands out food to associates on the job in downtown Las Cruces. The meals provided by Santa Fe Grill were a way to say thank you to LCU gas workers who stay up to date on training to make sure that gas distribution in Las Cruces is safe for all residents.