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Drilling Latin America's largest sewer

Drilling Latin America's largest sewer

Posted by Juan Gavasa on August 23, 2014

Some 110 meters (120yards) beneath a Mexico City suburb, a boxcar-size machine digs Latin America's largest sewer. The drill developed by U.S. based The Robbins Company uses pressure, water, chemicals and cutting bits to bore a hole the width of a three-lane highway through rock and other terrain. Behind it, the Eastern Discharge Tunnel seems to stretch into infinity.

The machine advances along a railroad track at a rate of 30 yards (meters) a day as workers inside reinforce the freshly made sewer with concrete supports. The tunnel will stretch 38 miles (62 kilometers) when finished in 2018, a decade after it was begun, said Carla Toledo, a communication officer with the National Water Commission, which heads the project.

Mexico City was built on top of a drained lakebed and is constantly sinking, making the city prone to flooding and putting stress on successive drainage systems over the centuries. The new tunnel will carry wastewater from the Mexico City to a treatment facility in the neighboring state of Hidalgo.

In this Aug. 19, 2014 photo, Guadalupe Calderon wears a mask as he performs routine maintenance on the front of a giant drill boring the Tunel Emisor Oriente, which will be Latin America's largest sewer, in Zumpango, Mexico. The area between the front of the boring machine and the rock is pressured to help with boring, so workers can only spend a limited time in the area or risk decompression sickness. (AP Photo/Sean Havey)

This Aug. 19, 2014 photo shows a control panel for the boring machine constructing the Tunel Emisor Oriental in Zumpango, Mexico. The machine, developed by U.S. based The Robbins Company, was specifically designed to bore through the variety of rock found in the Valley of Mexico to build what will be Latin America's largest sewer. (AP Photo/Sean Havey)

This Aug. 19, 2014 photo shows a tower and crane at shaft 16 of the Tunel Emisor Oriental in Zumpango, Mexico. The tower processes material processed by the boring machine, and the crane transports machinery and materials to the tunnel during the construction of Latin America's largest sewer. (AP Photo/Sean Havey)

This Aug. 19, 2014 photo shows an access shaft to the Tunel Emisor Oriente being built in Zumpango, Mexico. Some 110 meters (120 yards) beneath the Mexico City suburb, a boxcar-size machine is digging Latin America’s largest sewer. (AP Photo/Sean Havey)

In this Aug. 19, 2014 photo, Guadalupe Calderon performs routine maintenance on the front of a giant drill boring the Tunel Emisor Oriente, which will be Latin America's largest sewer, in Zumpango, Mexico. The drill developed by U.S. based The Robbins Company uses pressure, water, chemicals and cutting bits to bore a hole the width of a three-lane highway through rock and other terrain. (AP Photo/Sean Havey)

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