When you absolutely need to know where a utility is, vacuum excavation may be the answer.
Vacuum excavators are self-contained units that use pressurized air or water to displace soil and create a dry or wet spoil. The displaced dry or wet spoil is removed from the area through a hose using high-velocity suction and stored in a holding tank on the vacuum. Vacuum excavators can be mounted to a trailer or the back of a truck and range in size from 100 to 1,200 gallons of capacity.
Since vacuum excavators use low-pressure air or water to remove spoil, they are perfect for potholing or identifying existing utilities during some underground construction projects.
Damaging existing utilities can be costly in terms of project downtime and potential contractor fines, The low-pressure water and air will not damage existing utilities like a backhoe, compact excavator or shovel. In fact, the air and water move around the existing utilities, giving the operator a clear view.
Operators can select the amount of air or water pressure appropriate for the utility. A lower pressure of 1,500 psi should be used for gas and fiber lines in order to not damage the line coating. A higher pressure can be used for water lines.
It’s imperative to see exactly where the line or pipe is located. Contractors are not allowed to dig in the safe zone, which may be from 18 inches up to 3 feet from either side of the marked line. The required distance varies by state. Contractors are only allowed to dig by hand or use a non-destructive method like vacuum excavators in the safe zone.
Using a vacuum excavator instead of a shovel has advantages. A shovel against a water pipe is non-destructive, but on a fiber optic line a shovel can be as destructive as a backhoe, especially in hard ground conditions. We want your project to be a success, whatever pre-construction methods you decide to use. Just know that you have many different options and we’re here to help with all of them at Pacific Coast Locators.