Right below your feet are miles and miles of gas, water and sewer lines serving Las Cruces Utilities customers day and night. You can never give them a second thought until some disturbance causes some inconvenience. But tracking and mapping every square inch of underground lines is a full-time job for members of LCU’s localization teams.
âOur staff work 40 hours a week; that’s all they do every day. They use GPS (Global Positioning System) and electronic frequencies to make our mapping systems more accurate, âsaid Joe Atencio, LCU Gas Tracking and Mapping Supervisor.
Recently, LCU’s localization teams in the gas and water sectors completed certification training from Staking University. The seminar is designed to help locators develop troubleshooting techniques and skills to consistently provide accurate and complete information about the location of utilities. LCU employees attended the two-day seminar, which included classroom and field lessons. At the end of the second day, they took a full locate exam to be certified.
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âThe aim of this training was for our locators to further improve their skills and abilities and continue to improve their performance in the field,â said Atencio.
Certification is valid for two years. This year, as in 2019, the trainers came to the LCU campus, which allowed 16 employees to participate in the training.
As the name suggests, the responsibilities of LCU locators include locating, identifying and marking underground utility lines. On new utility lines, LCU knows exactly where the lines are because most buried lines have a trace wire on top of the pipe. However, older lines do not have trace wires, which means “pothole teams” have to go out into the field and dig test holes to expose underground utility lines and determine their location. location.
âBetween digging and modern equipment, we get the most recent information possible on the location of all utility lines in Las Cruces,â Atencio said.
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There are two forms of locating utility lines: conductive and inductive. Conductive involves connecting the equipment directly to the pipe or tracer wire. An electromagnetic frequency is transmitted along the wire through the length of the pipe to a receiver which tells the locator exactly where that piece of pipe is in the ground. Inductive tracking sends a broadcast signal into the ground to search for pipes without tracing wires. The locator places the transmitter over a predetermined location such as a gas riser or water meter. The signal is sent into the ground looking for any metallic item such as steel gas pipes. A receiver picks up the frequency and locates the location of the pipeline.
âIt’s like a radio station, if you will. The transmitter sends a signal over a gas riser much like a radio station, at the other end is the locator which has the receiver picking up the signal frequency, âAtencio said.
LCU Customer Central can be reached at 575-541-2111 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday. LCU provides services to approximately 100,000 residents and businesses of Las Cruces.
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