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Does Non-Destructive Digging Have An Impact on the Environment?

October 11, 2023
Non Destructive Vacuum Excavation

It’s important to balance the economic benefits of infrastructure projects with their impact on the environment and communities. These days, an increasing number of developers, site managers and surveyors are choosing non-destructive vacuum excavation. Also called hydro excavation, non-destructive drilling or non-destructive digging, this form of excavation targets particular areas of soil in a powerful and precise way. Dispensing with drills, jackhammers and spades, it uses the natural elements of water and air instead.

Non-destructive digging services are quickly becoming the preferred style of digging services in different industries. Local governments across Australia and New Zealand have embraced their use as communities run short of patience for large-scale works that interfere with their day-to-day lives. As our towns and cities grow, the need for new developments co-exists alongside our need for sustainability. Does non-destructive digging point the way forward, and is it as good for the environment as you may have heard?

Let’s take a closer look at non-destructive vacuum excavation: what it is, how it stacks up against other forms of earthmoving regarding its effects on the planet, and where you can find non-destructive excavation in Sydney.

How Does Non-Destructive Digging Work?

Non-destructive digging uses highly pressurised water and vacuum technology to remove a specific section of the earth. Described by the NSW Government Centre for Work Health and Safety as a “game-changing type of excavation that has transformed the construction industry”, it can be used in various areas, including those with restricted accessibility. Vacuum trucks blast soil and other types of ground with a high-pressure mix of water and air. The soil that’s displaced in the process- commonly called “drill mud” or “sludge” is collected via a suction hose and taken away by a storage truck to be disposed of.

While traditional forms of digging can leave a mess and sometimes interfere with underground infrastructure, non-destructive vacuum excavation is designed to hone in on a specific spot. The targeted nature of non-destructive digging makes it a cleaner and faster method of excavation.  

Non-destructive digging services are helping industries like construction, telecommunications and oil and gas to change and evolve to cleaner and more efficient solutions. But before you sign up for non-destructive excavation in Sydney, you may still be wondering whether environmental sustainability is among the advantages of non-destructive digging.

Benefits of Non-Destructive Digging

Non Destructive Vacuum Excavation2

Non-destructive vacuum excavation’s popularity can be explained in a number of ways:

It’s a safer method of digging

Non-destructive digging vastly reduces the risk of causing accidental damage to underground infrastructure like wiring and pipes. It’s safer for employees, too, as there’s less manual labour involved, and sometimes the equipment can be operated remotely.

Fewer road closures and detours

Because non-destructive digging is a much faster process, it minimises interruptions to people in the neighbourhood, including the kind of interruptions that hold up traffic and close essential roads off.

It’s cost-effective

Non-destructive digging is a much simpler process than traditional excavation. Instead of multiple pieces of machinery such as drills, spades, loaders and trucks, it requires only one truck to remove debris, store it and carry it away. With fewer hours onsite, fewer crew members on the ground and reduced operational costs, non-destructive digging works out to be a less expensive endeavour all around.

It’s better for highly populated areas

Excavation can sometimes cause structural damage to houses close to the site due to vibrations in and collapse of the surrounding ground. Non-destructive digging significantly reduces the risk of this occurring.

It’s better for the environment

Ultimately, non-destructive vacuum excavation does have an impact on the environment–and it’s positive. Because such a small section of the ground is dug up, any disturbance to the surrounding ecosystem is minimal.
Non-destructive digging is gentler on the environment in a number of ways. It turns a job that would usually take hours into minutes, cutting down on the amount of time spent digging in a particular area. It uses fewer resources. It’s more targeted than traditional digging, which can interfere with tree roots, plants, rabbit warrens etc. It’s cleaner, leaving no waste behind when the job is complete and letting the local animal life resume use of the land immediately.

When is Non-Destructive Digging Used?

Projects that commonly involve non-destructive vacuum excavation include:

Excavating around gas/water/telecommunications etc. lines

When you need to access underground utilities or to work around them, accidentally damaging these essential services leads to interruptions for thousands of people and costly repairs for you. The precise and focused nature of non-destructive digging reduces the risk that you’ll accidentally strike the wrong thing and cause expensive and troublesome damage.

Straightening a power pole

Using hydro excavation to strategically remove only a certain section of soil around a power pole lets you adjust the pole without having to remove its foundation.


On a construction site, potholing is the act of drilling holes in order to reveal the locations of underground utilities.  You can pothole for the maintenance of water, sewer, gas or telecommunications lines. But because only a small hole is required rather than a large trench, non-destructive vacuum excavation is an ideal way to expose these utilities.

Digging for soil samples

When you need to collect a soil sample for scientific analysis, traditional excavation techniques run the risk of cross-contamination. Non-destructive digging provides you with the opportunity to collect soil without such accidents taking place.

Tree planting/environmental remediation

Sometimes, trees need to be planted, and contaminants need to be removed from areas where underground utilities are located.  Non-destructive digging allows contaminated soil to be removed from sensitive areas with a minimal impact on healthy soil, underground utilities, animal life or natural features like rivers, wetlands and protected habitats.
There are many benefits to using non-destructive excavation in Sydney, a city with such diverse landscapes and ecological features. How do non-destructive digging services hold up against other forms of digging?

How It Compares To Other Digging Methods

The key difference between non-destructive vacuum excavation and other methods of digging is that it’s non-invasive. While more traditional methods of digging use equipment such as excavators and backhoes to shift soil from place to place, non-destructive digging harnesses the power of water to break up soil, even in areas with thick clay or heavy rocks. Non-destructive digging favourably compares to more traditional digging methods across a wide range of areas, including control, cost-efficiency, protection of utilities, decreased disruption, efficiency and speed, and its impact on the environment.

If you want the job done well and you want it done in a way that protects the environment, choose non-destructive digging services.

Non-Destructive Digging Services with SSTC

Non Destructive Vacuum Excavation3

At SSTC, we prioritise safety over all, but efficiency and effectiveness follow closely behind. Our team members are highly trained in the latest non-destructive digging techniques, and we have access to the latest technologies. We take every aspect of our role seriously, from the safety of our team to the impact on the environment.

When you need non-destructive digging and other industrial services in Sydney, we give you the very best. Our non-destructive digging trucks are from leading manufacturer Capellotto and use high-pressure water jets to safely excavate soil without damaging the environment or underground utilities.

Our team members are accredited and highly experienced. If you’re interested in non-destructive excavation in Sydney, get your free quote from SSTC.   

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