Safe and Efficient Hydroexcavating With Soil Surgeon

The versatile tool from Soil Surgeon streamlines hydroexcavation work

Safe and Efficient Hydroexcavating With Soil Surgeon

 The Soil Surgeon tool makes excavating utilities easier and safer because you can easily control the speed and power of the bore.

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Like so many inventions, the Soil Surgeon was created out of the need to do a job more efficiently. In this case, the job was locating and exposing pipelines — but Belinda Bain wanted to do it more easily, quickly and safely.

Bain started her first company, California Hazardous Services, out of her garage when she was 23. Nicknamed CalHaz, the company started out cleaning fuel tanks. It grew into testing, repairing and cleaning all parts of fuel tanks and their systems, and further evolved into other work, like cleaning storm drains. Taking on more municipal cleaning and hydroexcavation work gave Bain the idea to create the Soil Surgeon, in order to streamline those jobs and make them more profitable.

Cleaner recently spoke with owner Belinda Bain about creating the Soil Surgeon, its versatility and how it speeds up hydroexcavation work.

Tell us a little about the history of Soil Surgeon.

Soil Surgeon came about when CalHaz had gotten a project where we had to remove six city blocks of pipe. In those days, hydroexcavating was done the old way, with a water gun. You would pound the tube on the ground. Some people still cut or dig that way. I kept thinking, if there were jets boring inward on this tube and some jets boring outward on the bottom of this ring, then I could keep digging downward and suck up the dirt.

So we went back to my warehouse and built a water ring with jets boring inward to cut the soil and outward to bring the tube down. I was losing money on that job but then we brought out this new water ring and it sped up the job so much, we made a profit on it.

When it worked so well, I patented the Soil Surgeon and started marketing it to trucking distributors and companies that sell sewer combination trucks. I’ve been selling it now for 25 years.

What differentiates your excavating attachment from the competition?

There were other little water rings out there, where the tips bore straight down, that I found out about later. But none of them worked for me. There was a water ring you put inside the tube and that doesn’t work as well because that’s how the suction sucks up the dirt — it would just get clogged. The one I designed is outside the tube, which allows it to bore inward and outward. That’s the biggest thing.

The Soil Surgeon has handles — you grab hold of those handles and you just rock it back and forth after you have located your line, or in little circles in front of you, depending on how you’re digging.

The water pipe is connected to the tube. We’ve got bumpers on the bottom of the tube to protect the lines and the tips. But you’ll see a line 2 feet before you can get to it. It bores straight down. When you’re line locating, looking at blueprints, it’s not always completely accurate. So sometimes it takes a few bores to find it. But you can easily do that with this tool. And then the pipeline guys love it because when you locate a line, you can rock it back and forth and that clears out the soil underneath the pipe too, and then they can do the repair.

What sort of needs do they address? Break down the Soil Surgeon X1 and X2 and what applications they best serve.

It allows you to do so many things. It knocks off so much time on any job — hours, and sometimes days on big projects. 

The X1 is designed for digging, boring straight down. All the tips go inward and outward to dig. So this is best for digging a hole, line locating, etc.

The X2 is designed more for basin cleaning or storm drains. Because of all the cigarette butts and other trash, they started putting filters on storm drains here in California. To clean out the filters and the storm drains, you had to have certification for confined-space entry. So what’s nice about the X2 is you don’t need to go into the storm drain anymore. The X2 water ring has tips boring downward, outward to clean the walls of the storm drain and upward so it cleans the sides and top and cleans the filters too. And then you just vacuum it out.

What are some recommendations for customers shopping for hydroexcavation equipment? What trucks are compatible with the Soil Surgeon? 

When I designed the Soil Surgeon, hydroexcavation wasn’t as well known. Now we have hydroexcavation trucks. But whether you have a hydroexcavation truck or you have a sewer combination truck, a contractor can hydroexcavate or basin clean with any truck with the Soil Surgeon. It can open up so much more work for them, being able to dig like this. It’s so much safer and faster. Traditional excavating is so risky now, when lines aren’t always where they say they are.

The Soil Surgeon will fit on anything that has an 8-inch boom (I also have 6-inch tubes) and has a water tank, debris tank and a boom. As long as you have those three things, you can hydroexcavate. You don’t need a million dollar truck.

Is there any special training needed, or tips for operating the Soil Surgeon?

If someone is trained to run these trucks, they can use the Soil Surgeon.

The tips are stainless steel, designed and fabricated specifically for the Soil Surgeon. We always warn customers when they’re buying it for the first time, because people want to pound the edge of it on the ground because that’s what they’re used to doing. We say, let the Soil Surgeon cut for you. Keep moving it in either a circle or back and forth and let the water cut for you.

If you use it every day, it’ll last you a good four to five years — if you use it correctly and don’t pound it on the ground. But if they do, we sell the tips. But we tell our guys, don’t be lazy. Pull the boom up to connect the tube so you’re not dragging it. Even though they’re stainless steel, if you drag the Soil Surgeon or pound it on the ground sooner or later you’ll have to replace those tips.

People will get the feel of it. The first thing we tell people to do if they haven’t had a Soil Surgeon before is get out and play with it. Get the guys out to play with it in the yard, pop a couple holes so you can get the feel for it.

Another beautiful thing about it is you control the power. You have complete control with your truck. So for us, when we’re locating a line, we’ll go soft into the soil so it’s not spitting up rocks and then when we’re down a couple inches we can bore down with the water, until at about 4 feet and then we back off on the water a bit until we find the line.

How do you see the sewer cleaning industry evolving?

Storm drains are becoming more predominant around the country — California especially, being near the ocean. People are becoming more aware of keeping our environment clean, and the Soil Surgeon can play a role in that.

What can customers expect out of Soil Surgeon in the future?

I’ve had people say you should add gears, or this or that. But I don’t want any moving parts, because then you have oil. The Soil Surgeon has worked for 25 years, so I don’t see changing it. We did bring out the X2 a few years ago, so that market where you’d have to enter a confined space otherwise is definitely something I see growing. As we see more and more regulations, I think the X2 will become more popular.

What do you want your customers to think of when they hear the name Soil Surgeon?

The most powerful excavating tool. It’s safer and so fast — the best way to hydroexcavate.


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