Mechanical excavators are wonderful pieces of engineering. They can chew through asphalt, be fitted with attachments that will break up concrete and, most importantly dig big holes in the ground very quickly.
Trouble is, buried infrastructure, even metal and concrete piping is no match for these beasts. No wonder then that they are responsible for many of the thousands of incidents globally every year of underground infrastructure being damaged during excavation.
Sometimes the pipe itself is the reason for the excavation: it might be damaged or leaking. Pipes are generally fairly close to the surface, so the excavation needed is fairly modest. In these situations the use of a mechanical excavator has been rather colourfully compared to “using a chainsaw for removing a person’s appendix.”
That’s a bit extreme, but it did come from PicoParts a company advocating an alternative and much more pipe-friendly technology: hydro excavation. The article also points out that mechanical excavators are a danger not only to the infrastructure, but to those seeking access to it, and that they can cause damage without actually hitting a pipe: “vibrations generated during operation can also cause mechanical defects in the area where they are working.”
Hydro excavation is the use of high pressure water coupled with the use of a ‘giant vacuum cleaner’ to remove the resulting mud. “The high pressure of the water causes the displacement of the debris, whilst the vacuum removes it to enable digging,” the site explains. PicoParts makes the tungsten carbide nozzles used in high pressure hydro excavation machines.
“The water does not cause any further damage to the pipe being repaired and engineers can work faster without the risk of injury associated with mechanical excavation,” it says “Engineers can then simply expose the pipe, find the defect and fix it.”
PicoParts claims that Hydro Excavation is rapidly replacing mechanical excavation in a number of applications including; sign/pole installations, pipe/sewer repairs, underground facilities maintenance, cold weather digging, slot trenching, potholing/daylighting and remote digging.
For more information about hydro excavating trucks or rentals contact Monster Equipment, LLC Today