By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
Published in the Las Cruces Sun-News
Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) covers a lot of ground - supplying safe natural gas, providing clean water, treating wastewater, and removing solid waste. For new Commissioners to the LCU Board and new Las Cruces City Councilors, an in-depth tour of LCU facilities gives an up-close introduction to the world of critical infrastructure that keeps the city running.
With the COVID crisis having pushed the in-person tour later in the year than normal, City Councilors Tessa Abeyta Stuve and Johana Bencomo – who also serves as LCU Commissioner – and new LCU Commissioner Dr. Harry Hardee took two half-day tours to take advantage of the slightly less scorching summer mornings.
“It not only gives the Councilors and Commissioner a chance to see the different LCU areas that are spread out throughout town, but also provides a chance to meet our crew and ask questions directly,” said Dr. Jorge Garcia, P.E., LCU director.
First was learning about how the City of Las Cruces (City) water wells connect to two underground aquifers - the Mesilla Bolson and the Jornada Bolson - and how LCU moves water throughout Las Cruces by gravity flow and booster stations that pump water between zones. Councilors asked about water availability – and were reassured through research outlined in LCU’s 40-year plan.
Next it was learning about the clean fill and green waste compost operations at the Foothills Landfill Composting Facility, formerly known as the Old Foothills Landfill, at 555 S. Sonoma Ranch. A Green Grappler unloaded yard waste in clear plastic bags that would be processed into composted mulch, available free to the public. A quick stop at the East Mesa Reclamation Facility, which processes east side wastewater and sends out reclaimed water through purple pipes for irrigation of east side public spaces.
Then it was on to learn about the Griggs-Walnut Superfund Groundwater Plume Remediation Project, at 163 N. Cottonwood St. The superfund site uses “air stripping” processing to clear groundwater of the chemical perchloroethylene (PCE), first detected in Las Cruces groundwater in 1993. The affected water wells were immediately taken offline and today the facility processes more than 350,000 gallons of water per day, clearing the PCE and making the water suitable for drinking.
On Day Two it was off to the Water Quality Laboratory, the Jacob Hands Wastewater Treatment Facility, and two Natural Gas Regulator Stations. “What I enjoyed the most was the enthusiasm that each associate had for their role,” said Councilor Abeyta Stuve. “Everyone at LCU is dedicated to making sure that the city residents have what they need for a high quality of life.”
PHOTO 1: City Councilors Tessa Abeyta Stuve and Johana Bencomo and new LCU Commissioner Dr. Harry Hardee heard about how water is reclaimed and processed at the East Mesa Reclamation Facility.