By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
Published in the Las Cruces Bulletin 3/27/20
On average, LCU responds to more than 8,000 calls every year asking for “locates” of underground utilities. Homeowners and contractors definitely want to know where gas pipes and all underground utilities are located, before picking up a shovel or any hand tool that can penetrate the ground.
“With newly laid pipe, a ‘tracer’ line – that we can find magnetically – will always be added alongside the pipe. But that technology didn’t exist for older construction,” says Joe Atencio, LCU gas locating & mapping supervisor. “When we run into a situation where we don’t have the records showing pipe locations, sometimes ‘fish taping’ is the best solution to find exactly where a customer’s line connects to the City’s main gas line.”
While new technologies generally make things easier, sometimes older methods still save the day in locating underground utilities. “Fish taping is a last resort before we have to actually have to dig up a pipe to locate it,” explains Atencio. He describes it as feeding a gas line tracer through the end of a pipe where it will “ping” an electronic signal to equipment above ground for a crew.
It’s a “last resort” because it requires shutting off the gas for the brief time that a crew searches for a pipe, while their mandate is to not have LCU customers out of service for any time at all.
Before starting a landscaping or fencing project or any type of patio or deck construction, please remember to call 811 to locate and mark underground utilities.
You can reach Las Cruces Utilities at 528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides GAS – WATER – WASTEWATER – SOLID WASTE services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
PHOTO 1: LCU Gas System Crew Leader, Benjamin Garcia; and Steve Barela, LCU gas services worker, “fish tape” a gas service line. This process helps LCU mitigate damages to utility infrastructure that would be otherwise unlocatable without digging up pipes.