New technology allows TCI to see trash under city streets

By Sean Talbot - Producer, Ken Huizar - Photojournalist, Sal Salazar - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - The Transportation and Capital Improvements Department has gone high tech in an effort to inspect the miles of pipe under San Antonio’s streets.

“This camera, it has wheels on it,” said Fermin Rosales, a TCI field operations inspector. "We can control through our system inside the truck.”

The robot has two cameras: a pan-and-tilt camera and a panoramic camera. This setup not only allows inspectors to examine the city’s drainage system without actually having to climb down in it but also lets city crews inspect drainage pipes and culverts all over the city. 

TCI started using this process five years ago.

“We started [using] the program in the downtown area because it is the oldest part of the city,” said Nefi Perez, assistant director of TCI.

According to Rosales, the most frequent thing crews find is trash.

“We come to find shopping carts, oil cans, mattresses, a bunch of trash,” he said. 

Perez said the public isn’t always thinking about what problems the trash can cause.

“They see a curb inlet on the side of the road, and they don’t think twice and just throw the trash down there,” Perez said. “If you’re ever downtown, take a look at the curb inlets downtown. They actually have a screen that protects trash from going in there.”

Keeping trash out of the inlets and the pipes is critical in protecting the environment.

“We don’t want anything but rainwater going into our rivers,” Rosales said. “All of the water runs into our creeks and we can’t have anything other than rainwater in there. Our main priority is maintaining our water system.”

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