Vic Pobihushchy’s creative flare is burning as bright as ever.
The 76-year-old is currently overseeing testing of a “hydro excavator separator” that he developed about five years ago and recently secured U.S. and Canadian patents for.
He’s optimistic it will revolutionize non-destructive excavating.
Traditional hydro-excavating involves injecting pressurized water into the ground, with the liquefied soil vacuumed into a holding tank.
It’s an effective way to dig in sensitive areas where cables, pipelines and other items might be buried, but produces large volumes of mucky slurry that must be hauled away and disposed of.
“It’s a big, big problem,” said Pobihushchy, who lives in Red Deer.
“It costs more to get rid of that slurry than it does to do the excavating.”
A veteran of the excavation industry who founded and operated Vic-Air Drilling Ltd., Pobihushchy set to work designing a machine that would eliminate the slurry problem. The hydro excavator separator resulted.
A vibrating screen separates the soil and water, with the liquid further cleaned in a centrifuge.
“We get absolutely clear water out of it that you can drink,” said Pobihushchy, adding that the system is quick and efficient.
It eliminate the downtime associated with slurry disposal and also allows the water to be reused in the excavation process.
“I would say it has a tremendous, tremendous potential,” said Pobihushchy, who’s been getting calls from Canada, the United States and beyond.
“There’s a big interest all over.”
Jordan Resta, a partner in Red Deer-based Providence Trucking Inc., is convinced.
His company has committed to operate and sell the hydro excavator separator.
“I’m pretty impressed with it, actually,” he said.
“The sky’s the limit with this thing.”
Pobihushchy is currently talking to manufacturers about fabricating the machine in large numbers.
That process has been hampered by the economic downturn, but Pobihushchy said he’s getting close.
He’s reluctant to talk about his investment in the technology, other than to confirm that it’s “millions of dollars.”
“I’ve been working on it for a long, long time — six years or so,” he added.
“It took us four years to get the patent.”
But the experience hasn’t dampened Pobihushchy’s inventive spirit, with a long list of other projects on his plate.
“I can’t do much else because I’m too busy with this, to be honest with you.”
Originally from Manitoba, Pobihushchy found work in the oilpatch as a teenager.
He settled in Red Deer with his wife Doris in 1961, and in the ensuing years built everything from drilling rigs to pile drivers.
His Vic-Air Drilling was active across Western Canada.