In response to mounting concerns over sinkholes, municipal authorities in Ecatepec, México state, have sent a robot into the drainage system to patrol the city’s plumbing network.
The mechanical sentry is equipped with two video cameras to help authorities detect ruptures in pipes to repair them quickly before they can generate sinkholes.
The municipal government held a special demonstration of the robot’s performance and technologies, which in addition to the video cameras include a tracking device that will allow authorities to locate with precision ruptures in both drinking water and drainage lines. It also has ground-penetrating radar capable of taking ultrasound photos through up to 8 meters of subsoil.
Juan Herrera Moro, director of Ecatepec’s water, sewer and drainage system (Sapase), said the city has 750 kilometers of primary drainage pipes and 3,500 kilometers of a secondary system of pipes. He said the entire system is between 30 and 60 years old, meaning that nearly all the pipes are due to be replaced.
Mayor Fernando Vilchis Contreras predicted that the robot’s patrols will save the city considerable “time, money, effort, personnel and most importantly, accidents.”
“Ecatepec deserves to be up to date and we are going to give its citizens the city they need and deserve. We are going to generate the conditions necessary to be able to buy two robot units; this is going to help us a lot. [Dealing with] the sinkholes is our top priority and it will no longer be necessary to rip up roads to prevent them.”
Sinkholes have become a constant fear for residents in recent months. The city, part of the Mexico City metropolitan area and also one of the country’s densest and most populous urban centers, is located directly on top of the unstable soils of the drained bed of Lake Texcoco.
As a result, Ecatepec has seen some 120 sinkholes form. One that appeared on July 12 in the Chamizal neighborhood was so big that it swallowed two vehicles.