By Cassie McClure
Published in Las Cruces Bulletin 9.2.22
It was back to the shop for parts for Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) Wastewater Line Maintenance Mechanic Eric Garza. The high-pressure water jets had worn down the Vactor truck's hose, the LCU truck that unclogs pipe in wastewater collection lines. He pointed at the metal guide, with dart-shaped ridges, for the hose.
“I welded those myself,” he said.
Every day is different for him, something he likes and something he knew when he started at LCU. Persistence was key for Garza; he tried for 10 years to get a job at the City of Las Cruces (City). He had worked in construction and placing fiber optic lines, but wastewater was a new challenge.
“I knew that I had better opportunities to grow at the City, along with looking at retirement and a better ability to take leave,” he said. When he came aboard as a crew member in wastewater, there was a lot to absorb.
“I’ve learned so much in the last five years,” said Garza. “It hasn’t just been getting my levels – I’m up to my Wastewater Operator Level III certification – but working with the crew and my supervisor has been a large part of my education. We all work well together and pitch in during larger projects.”
He explained that he does a little of everything – maintaining trucks like the Vactor, fixing equipment the crew uses in the field, or even checking on lift stations. As he was fixing the hose, he pointed at the elbow on the pipe of the truck and mentioned how rocks sometimes break through and he had to patch the elbow. He then remembered replacing the pedestals that pipes sit on in a lift station. “Five hours underground in a biohazard suit,” Garza said.
Earlier in the day, he used a push robot with a camera to scan the pipes leading to a resident’s home. He found collapsed sections, in our right of way, that he’ll go back with a backhoe to dig up and repair. Garza will do spot fixes out in the field, but also does housekeeping routines at LCU locations and special projects like rehabilitation of wastewater infrastructure.
“This is definitely a behind the scenes job, sometimes it’s actually underground, but if someone has an interest to do different things, challenge themselves, I tell them to go for it and apply,” he said. “The people, the team you’d work with, would be the best part of the job.”
To learn more about jobs at LCU: https://www.las-cruces.org/2001/Work-For-Us
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 Line Maintenance Mechanic Eric Garza never has the same day. This day was replacing a hose on the Vactor truck; tomorrow might mean heading into the sewer pipe with a biohazard suit.