Published in Las Cruces Bulletin 8/26/2022
By Cassie McClure
When we flush, we’re happy that what goes down the toilet and into the pipes is taken away. In Las Cruces, all pipes lead to its own Rome, which Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) has in the Jacob A. Hands Wastewater Treatment Facility. But the facility doesn’t run on its own; it takes a dedicated staff to ensure wastewater is treated and the plant can run continuously to serve the community.
LCU Wastewater Treatment Plant Crew Leader Jordan Kirkham has worked at the plant for seven years, and in the mornings, it’s his job to make the rounds. “I tie in with the night operator for any information and then walk around the entire plant, checking pumps, pressure gauges, and totals for how much flow the plant has seen,” he said.
He explained that in between his regular checks, he works with residents, usually 1 to 3 times a day, who come to get up to ten buckets of the Class A+ biosolid compost, a byproduct of the treatment process that works wonders on greening up a yard.
“I’m helping my community, but I’m also helping my environment, by monitoring what goes into the Rio Grande,” said Kirkham. “It’s a hands-on job but fuses science with being outdoors; plus, in my routines around the plant, I work at my own pace as long as the job gets done.”
Kirkham said the rounds continue all day, with him checking the machinery and taking samples of the 9 to 10-million gallons flowing into the Rio Grande per day. Since the wastewater never stops, the facility never stops. It runs 24/7, 365 days a year and is overseen by Kirkham and the other Level IV operators in three shifts: day, swing, and night.
To get here, Kirkham came through the Water Technology program at Doña Ana Community College and is a Level IV Operator who has worked his way through the certification process while working for LCU. Every six months, his job moves in rotation with other crew leaders. Sometimes he works nights, and while it’s an adjustment, especially with an 8- and 3-year-old at home, he knows that what he does is essential.
“I get to be part of larger projects like rehabilitating the clarifier, the tanks that separate suspended solids from a liquid,” he said. “From those projects, we learn the process from the ground up and learn how to best keep the service going for our community, no matter what time of the day or night.”
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 Wastewater Treatment Plant Crew Leader Jordan Kirkham takes care of what comes through Las Cruces wastewater pipes.