Non-Destructive Digging: How Your Council Will Save Money

Keeping a complex plumbing system in good working order is no small task, especially when part of it is buried underneath a busy road or central area.

No local council wants to disrupt business or traffic any more than is absolutely necessary — so when pipe maintenance does become necessary, great care must be taken to minimise the length of the project and the damage it causes.

One way of achieving this goal is to work with a company that can offer non-destructive digging processes as they access the pipes. Here’s exactly what is involved, how it works and how it can benefit you and your project.

What Is Hydro Excavation?

The methodology varies, but the basic principle of non-destructive digging remains the same. This technique is usually referred to as hydro excavation.

First, the plumbing and drainage contractor pumps the earth around the areas to be excavated with water. Once the earth is fluid enough, they vacuum the mud away from the target area, leaving an easy access point behind. The process is also known as potholing, and sometimes air is used to move the mud instead of water.

Is Hydro Excavation Safe for the Pipes?

Both in comparison to mechanical digging and on its own terms, non-destructive digging is extremely safe for surrounding pipework. This is how it earns its name; rather than posing a potential threat to existing assets by clawing through the earth, this method simply extracts it.

And of course, contractors can easily refill the area once they complete the maintenance work, meaning that the process is non-destructive to the surrounding environment too.

What About Deeper Pipes?

No matter how deeply the plumbing system is laid, non-destructive digging can reach it. Where necessary, equipment can be extended with the use of rubber hose extensions.

This technique is especially useful for systems that lie underneath buildings or busy thoroughfares as it requires only a very slim point of access. In fact, heavy-duty hydro excavation equipment can reach a depth of up to 50 metres.

How Quick Is Non-Destructive Digging?

One common misconception is that because this process is careful and doesn’t damage existing pipework, it must also be slow. This is not the case. Plumbing and drainage contractors can dig a hole five feet deep in 20 minutes in the right conditions.

By comparison, the speed of mechanical digging can vary wildly. The rate depends on the experience level of the operator, the size and age of the machine and the complexity of the task — whereas these things do not affect the speed of hydro excavation.

How Can This Technique Save Money?

According to the Australian Pipelines and Gas Association — or APGA — up to 85% of pipework accidents that resulted in damage were caused by mechanical excavation. With statistics like these, it's easy to see how switching to a safer excavation procedure could reduce repair costs.

Equally, however, the process does not require major reconstruction work to the surrounding area, as most of it need not be displaced in the first instance. The land can simply be refilled.

As such, while the initial cost could be higher for non-destructive digging, it will not be prohibitive compared to mechanical digging — and since it prevents accidents, it will be cheaper in the long run.

Of course, every project has different needs and requirements, but if you require pipe access, non-destructive digging is likely a good option to consider. If you would like to discuss how the process could work for you, please contact us. We will be happy to talk through the specifics with you.