Vacuum excavators are emerging as one of many tools helping with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill cleanup efforts. However, they are only one part of the solution.
“A number of companies are exploring the potential of using vacuum excavators as an effective and economical way to help remove the oil from the Gulf region,” says Dave Gasmovic, president of McLaughlin.
Vacuum excavators are being deployed on barges into the Gulf and used to remove oil from the miles of skimmers located along the Gulf Coast. The oil and water mix is then transferred to a facility where the oil is extracted from the water and burned. The resulting clean water is then returned to the Gulf.
“We also have team members in the region working with authorities to develop specialized tools that can be used in conjunction with the vacuums to remove tar balls from the shorelines,” says Gasmovic. “Currently, the most effective method has involved a shovel and rake. Our hope is that the vacuums, equipped with this special tool, can help speed the removal of tar balls from the beaches.”
Units are also being used to remove oil from sea walls. These vacuums are equipped with a hot box that produces water up to 130 F. The hot water has the ability to remove the oil from sea walls or riprap, and the vacuum sucks up the oil and water mix at the base of the sea wall.
“Ultimately the goal is to see how these units can help expedite the cleanup process, but still remain an economical option,” says Gasmovic.