Vacuum excavators used to help clean Gulf of Mexico oil spill

June 2010 Vol. 65 No. 6
On Saturday, June 19, 2010, oil spread northeast from the leaking Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: NASA.

Teams cleaning up after the oil spill in the Gulf have deployed a new tool to help with their efforts--McLaughlin vacuum excavators. 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.

Units are also being used to remove oil from seawalls. These vacuums are equipped with a hot box that produces water up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. The hot water can remove the oil from sea walls or riprap, and the vacuum sucks up the oil and water mix at the base of the seawall.

“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 Dave Gasmovic, president of McLaughlin. “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.”