Project Profile: Drilling and Vacuuming in Pennsylvania

Contractor Brubacher completes 3-year project installing sewer force mains using directional drilling and vacuum excavation
Project Profile: Drilling and Vacuuming in Pennsylvania

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A three-year project in Upper Providence Township near Media, Pennsylvania, was a success for the contractor thanks to directional drilling and vacuum excavation.

“We’re a full-service company, so we do everything from large-scale site work to utility work,” says Allan Day, project manager/estimator for Brubacher Excavating, a second-generation family-owned company. “We also work in the Marcellus Shale play building well pads and roads and other facilities.”

With offices in southeastern and north-central Pennsylvania, the company does most of its work in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware.


Brubacher began the project in Pennsylvania’s Delaware County in 2010 and wrapped it up in 2013. “It was a multi-phase project, and we did phases two through four, eight and nine,” Day says. “It was the installation of 2- to 6-inch low-pressure sewer force mains and then several hundred 1-1/4-inch laterals as well.”

The new infrastructure was being installed as the community abandoned its sand mound and seepage bed wastewater treatment systems and moved to a sewer system. Residents were given five years to connect to the sewer system once installed.

“The responsibility for us was to install the main and connect the lateral to the right-of-way,” Day says. “The homeowners were then responsible for hiring their own plumber and taking it from there.”

Crews used horizontal directional drilling to minimize disruption of landscaping and roadways as they installed 650 laterals in residential front yards. Over three years, the company installed nearly 76,000 linear feet of sewer main and 16,400 feet of service line.

“We kept traffic flowing and saved thousands of tons of stone and asphalt, reducing truck traffic on local roads by using horizontal directional drilling,” Day says.


Crews of six to 10 worked each day with Vermeer 24x40 and 20x22 machines and were able to move quickly with good soil conditions.

“We dealt with some rock conditions, but a lot of it was just really nice dirt conditions,” Day says. “When the dirt is nice and you have smaller-diameter pipes, you can put in a lot of pipe in a short time and have less restoration than if you were open-cutting.”


Crews also met with buried utilities throughout the project, calling for Brubacher’s three vacuum excavators — two Vacmasters 4000 systems and a Vacmasters 1000.

“There were a lot of underground utilities,” Day says. “We had probably over 1,000 underground utilities crossings and we used our three vacuum excavation trucks to locate every utility we crossed. We never drill without knowing the exact horizontal and vertical location of the utilities, so we’re staying well away from them and we have no concerns with hits.”

All three Vacmasters units are truck mounted and get used often with the water main replacement work the company does in southeastern Pennsylvania for public water and natural gas companies.

“For all those projects we locate every utility we cross before we come up on it,” Day says. “That way we know if it’s going to be a conflict and if we need to go over or under. We also pride ourselves on locating every utility to minimize the risk of a hit. It decreases downtime and keeps the utilities happy.”

Day says the company used pneumatic (air) excavation because hydroexcavation can damage some plastic lines. Another benefit is being able to reuse the spoils. “We can backfill our holes with that dirt and don’t have to worry about disposing of it off site like we would need to with hydro.”


PROJECT: Upper Providence Sewer System Upgrade

LOCATION: Upper Providence Township in Delaware County, Pennsylvania (near Media, Pennsylvania)

CONTRACTOR: Brubacher Excavating

PRESIDENT: Keith Brubacher


TIME OF PROJECT: 2010-2013

EQUIPMENT USED: Vermeer 24x40 and 20x22 directional drills; 2 Vacmasters 4000s (truck-mounted); 1 Vacmasters 1000 (truck-mounted); mini-excavator, backhoe


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