Underground Utilities – A Crowded Picture

Across the modern landscape, the proliferation of underground utilities has grown significantly as we have come to appreciate the improved visual aesthetics. While undergrounding is initially expensive, utility providers benefit from increased reliability and protection from the elements. However, the potential for service interruptions due to accidental strikes when uncovering underground lines for maintenance or during construction, is a growing concern. Per this illustration, as underground utilities continue to proliferate, the potential for accidental strikes on adjacent utilities increases.

Dry excavation in conjunction with the Utility AirSpade facilitates the safe excavation of underground utilities and minimizes the chance of a service interruption. Unlike mechanical excavation techniques, airspading efficiently removes or loosens soil without damage to underground facilities. Underground utilities where accidental strikes commonly occur include:

Irrigation Lines: Water for lawns, shrubs and trees

Street Lighting Lines: A/C power for street lights

Traffic Signal Lines: Low voltage lines providing traffic signal synchronicity

Storm Drainage: Runoff from curbside storm drains

High Voltage Power Lines: High voltage A/C power

Water Main: Potable fresh water supply

District Chilled Water: Dedicated institutional or municipal system

Telecommunication Lines: Telephone, cable, and fiber optic lines

District Hot Water/Steam: Dedicated institutional or municipal system

Natural Gas: Gas for heating, cooling, cooking, and hot water

Sewer Lines: Wastewater routed to sewage treatment plants

Fire Hydrant Lines: Water for fire hydrants

Specialized Vacuum Excavation Techniques Three primary methodologies are typically used in utility construction, locating and maintenance.

Trenching – excavation of a trench to accommodate an underground utility. Trenches vary in depth – typically shallow for seasonal irrigation lines, but can be several feet deep to avoid frost with water or sewer lines.

Potholing – excavation to pinpoint the location of an underground facility.

Keyholing – specialized potholing to locate & repair underground facilities. Typically performed on roadway surfaces to minimize pavement damage.