At El Paso Water, Eddie Pulido, Armando Gonzalez, Norberto Olmos and Julio Soto make important daily contributions as a construction superintendent, utility pipelayers and a lead service worker.
On April 4, the four water distribution colleagues will take their places as coach, setter, cranker and copper during the Texas section of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) Pipe Tapping Competition in Houston.
EPWater’s pipe tapping team members are eyeing the top prize, and it’s not just a pipe dream.
“We have a good team, and we know we are capable,” said Pulido, the coach. “We set the bar and decided this year we are going for all the marbles.”
The friendly competition is intense, pitting utility teams in a race that simulates connecting a copper pipe from a water meter to a water main.
It’s a contest that requires precision, strength and speed, all while maintaining the highest level of safety and quality. Errors, such as leaks or safety missteps, may result in penalty time added to their results. Winning times clock in under the 2-minute mark.
Each team member’s role counts, said Gonzalez, making teamwork and communication of utmost importance. If anything starts to go wrong, it can affect the entire team.
“If the team doesn’t communicate, it results in penalties,” said Soto, the copper. “I think we perform well under pressure. We are ready.”
“When we balance our roles, it’s like a dance,” said Olmos, the cranker. “We have to work together. These guys are like family. It’s a team effort, with a lot of communication.”
Gonzalez, the setter, loves being part of the team. Nothing feels better than garnering support from EPWater management and co-workers, including the support of family and friends from his native hometown of Monterrey, Mexico.
“When a video of our performance went on YouTube, family and friends were so proud,” Gonzalez said, who has worked at EPWater 12 years. Gonzalez frequently reminds his teammates they are the first team from the utility to compete.
The team has picked up valuable tips from winning teams over the years, Soto said.
“They told me I was really good and gave me ideas on how to perform faster,” Soto said, who has worked at EPWater five years. Trading work tips and the experience of competing translates into skills he can put to work in the field, he added.
Felipe Lopez, Distribution and Collection Systems Division Manager, said the team has support from the field office but would like to see their fan base grow.
“These guys have put in three hours of their own time to practice on Saturdays on top of working all week and on top of working their stand-by crew shifts at night,” Lopez said. “They have been out here more than they have been home.”
The winner on April 4 advances to compete in June at AWWA’s Annual Conference and Exposition in Denver.