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The Problem With Daylighting Waste

May 31, 2019

Waste and resources are a topic on many governments and businesses’ agendas throughout the world now.

Whether it’s plastic waste management, recycling our organics, paper, or glass, in every industrial sector the re-use and responsible disposal of material is very topical. In a way, ‘waste’ is fast becoming the new byword for opportunity.

As the HydroVac market expands at a rapid rate, and for good reason, there is more pressure than ever for processors to be ‘waste wise’ and environmentally conscious.  

Daylighting concerns

This concerns are centered around the resulting bulk of waste mud, fluids and clay, which are  by-products of daylighting.  The burdensome task of disposing of chemically laden mud at the end of hydro excavation is often considered the main negative of this otherwise highly effective and safe process.  As a result, many are adding stabilizing products such as sawdust to the waste to solidify it.  However this only adds to the problem by increasing the weight of the waste.  Due to its massive volume, it is extremely expensive to take to landfill, if indeed the site will accept this bulky waste.  Another option is to bury the waste or leave it to dry out, but then there’s a risk of environmental pollution because of the possible leakage of hydrocarbons into the surrounding soil. If it gets into the water table or other water courses, it could further pollute nearby land.  

While the rules on disposing of drilling mud vary from state to state in the US and Canada, there’s no denying that managing it responsibly is a common approach for the better. Consciously handling drilling muds, rather than just adding drying agents such as sawdust and then dumping them, has a positive impact environmentally as well as economically.

Wasted opportunities

If we look beyond what is perceived as a problem, we are inspired to see what opportunities exist in between.  

By treating and dewatering daylighting muds, reusable materials can be recovered. It is also legally more secure, environmentally safer and commercially astute. The alternative is more expensive and less secure. 

Drilling contractors who choose this method of processing will still be subject to a duty of care when transporting possibly toxic mud responsibly and therefore, safe carriage of the mud must be undertaken by a licensed body.

Customised reception centres for hydro excavation waste, recover materials for re-sale and they can also treat any wastewater for re-use. If we consider the potential locked in these materials, we can see that up until now, there have been wasted opportunities to recover valuable materials and reduce disposal costs.

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