Longtime residents of Cuernavaca, Morelos, are learning that their homes have been built over active pipelines thanks to the activity of huachicoleros, or fuel thieves, who are stealing from them.
And the thieves are picking up their pace in the municipality.
A woman who has lived for two decades in the town of Ahuatepec, located in the northern part of Cuernavaca, began seeing unusual after-dark activity near her house five months ago. She soon realized that a pipeline was buried there and thieves were tapping into it.
“They offer gasoline and 3,000 pesos [US $162] to keep those of us living here quiet,” the woman told the newspaper El Universal.
About seven kilometers of pipelines run below that part of Ahuatepec, part of a fuel distribution system that runs from Mexico City to a Pemex plant in Jiutepec.
“The situation is very complicated because the pipelines run below homes; they’re a risk for the population due to pipeline tapping and water contamination,” said the director of the Cuernavaca water department.
Cuernavaca’s Civil Protection director criticized Pemex yesterday for not making routine inspections to look for pipeline taps. Enrique Clemente Gallardo said many taps could be avoided if the state oil company made regular rounds to “verify, check and look after its pipelines.”
But, he claimed, there is “no real willingness” on Pemex’s part to do so.
Civil Protection officials are doing that now, Clemente said, and the effort has been productive. So far this year they have identified 20 taps in the northern region of the municipality whereas during all of last year there were 35, a situation he described as worrying.
Authorities found 478 illegal pipeline taps in the state last year, some of which were close or within the Chamilpa, Ocotepec, Milpillas, Montessori and Flores Magón districts of Cuernavaca.