Guatemalan “sinkhole” not a sinkhole

Guatemala City Sinkhole

A sinkhole caused by leaking water infrastructure swallowed two buildings and killed at least one.

According to a geologist quoted recently by Discovery News, that Giant sinkhole in Guatemala city isn’t a “sinkhole” — it’s a “piping feature”.

Geologist Sam Bonis says, “When you have water flowing from storm water runoff, a sewage pipe, or any kind of strong flow, it eats away at the loose material. We don’t know how long it has to go on before it collapses. But once it starts collapsing, God help us.”

A Global Issue

Mismanaged stormwater runoff, decaying sewage pipes and leaky water pipes aren’t endemic to Guatemala. The United States’ million miles of sewer pipes suffer tens of thousands of sewage spills yearly — like the kind that caused the Guatemalan tragedy — and the nation’s 700,000 miles of water pipes break daily, causing regular damage.

And just as such a “piping feature” has happened before in Guatemala and could happen again at any time, so they will continue to happen in the United States.

We must either efficiently repair our infrastructure using smart water management technologies to identify weaknesses, or increasingly decentralize the water complex.The former improves the status quo by preserving infrastructure. The latter reduces the strain on aging infrastructure by avoiding it altogether. Both methods reduce the likelihood of inconvenient and possibly deadly surprises.

Image credit: Guatemalan Government via Flickr

 

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