A hydroexcavation work site visit offers a chance to see how a job is completed

Watching a 2,500 psi stream of water shoot out from the wand and striking that rocky soil and slicing right through it was remarkable.

On March 13, Dig Different digital editor Luke LeNoble and I traveled to Wabeno, Wisconsin — a small community about two hours north of Green Bay — to take in a hydroexcavating job.

RiverView Construction, based in Wausau, was digging trenches for installation of new lines at a cellphone tower site and were using two of their three machines. A Premier Oilfield Equipment hydroexcavator was being used on one side of the small site and a Vactor was being used on the other side.

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The use of other excavation equipment such as backhoes wasn’t an option because it was not known what, if any, utilities were buried at the worksite. Crew members said that the two trucks allowed them to complete the job faster.

Crews began working early that day with temperatures creeping into the 60s by mid-afternoon as work continued. Both crews operated the hydroexcavators remotely because of a fence that separated the worksite from the trucks. The wands sprayed out two streams of water and sliced through the gravel with ease, the hot water sometimes giving off clouds of steam.

The hydrovacs each had to dump twice during the day — it took about four hours to fill each machine’s debris tank. The debris was unloaded at a nearby dumping station in Wabeno where crews were also able to hook up to the community’s fire hydrant to refill the hydroexcavator’s water supply.

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The firm was slated to be in the northern area of the state the next several weeks doing similar jobs. RiverView Construction officials told us they are very busy with their machines, especially in the wintertime when the use of hot water can be a benefit because of the frozen ground here in the state.

It was a rare opportunity to see these machines at work in our neck of the woods in Northern Wisconsin. Usually when I see hydroexcavators they are parked at our Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport (WWETT) Show in Indianapolis.

It now marks the second time in the last few weeks that I’ve seen hydroexcavators on jobsites. The first was about two weeks ago in downtown Appleton where a Vactor was being used at an utility construction job site.

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It’s a sign that the digging technique is starting to catch on with more contractors and it’s going to be exciting to see what happens with the industry in the coming years as it continues to grow.


Do you remember the first time you saw a hydroexcavator at work or your first time operating one? What were your thoughts on it?

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