How to avoid striking buried utilities during excavation projects

The essence of damage avoidance when excavating around buried utilities cannot be ignored. By steering clear of hitting a utility pipe or cable, contractors not only save their company from liability, but the public from possible danger or missing services. So, how can an excavation company make sure that they prevent damage to buried utility pipes during excavation projects? Read on to find out.

Hydro excavation

Hydro excavation is the fastest and safest method to dig that penetrates the ground without disturbing or damaging buried pipes and cables. Hydro excavation services are typically trailer or truck mounted. It features several fundamental components:

  • A big water reservoir
  • A big debris tank
  • A suction hose connected to a swinging pivot
  • A vacuum unit
  • An on-board water heater
  • A high-pressure water wand

How it works

Hydro excavation makes use of the most abundant and green resource, namely water to safely uncover buried utilities. Basically, the water wand discharges highly pressurized water into the designated excavation site. This causes the surrounding soil to liquefy. The resulting slurry is not piled on one side instead its sent to the debris tank through the vacuum hose. The injected water into the ground causes minimal ground disturbance which contributes to the elimination of far less material. Note that the slurry will later be used as backfill once the excavation is completed.

Any soil type can be dug up using this process including sand, gravel, silt, dry or wet clays as well as common fill materials. The soil cover is removed through the aforementioned steps until the utility pipes and cables are exposed. At this point, the utilities are properly marked by the contractors and the excavation process proceeds into other surrounding areas. In effect, this method serves to dig and protect buried utilities.

In the event that the ground is frozen, an on-board water heater comes in handy in terms of heating the water stream before it's injected into the frozen ground. Consequently, the soil is easily loosened despite the freezing conditions.

Damage avoidance is such a potent driving force behind the massive adoption and use of hydro excavator trucks among excavation contractors. The technology minimizes the liability to the contractor or an individual operating a ground-engaging machine. It could be the difference between a successful excavation project and striking a buried utility. Therefore, professional excavation services should either buy or rent hydro excavators as part of their equipment.