Unexpected Aspects Of The Subsurface World

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Evan Mowbray

Unexpected Aspects Of The Subsurface World

There are a number of aspects we do not think about when it comes to what’s underground, sometimes right beneath our feet.You might not think about the sewers 12 feet underground and all of the bugs that live in the pipes. You might not think about the potential sinkhole spots you might be standing over. You might not think about the graves when walking through a cemetery! Horror movie writing aside, what’s important is that there’s a lot that people overlook with the subsurface world, whether that consists of traditional buried utilities or other, more unexpected structures.


Utilities are a pretty common occurrence underground, with millions of miles of buried features expected under the surface. It was once estimated that there are over 20 miles of utilities underground, and that number has only grown since the initial report in 1994. They can be observed through surface features, ground penetrating radar technology, and careful digging through vacuum excavation or other means. Even though there are a number of surface features to base assumptions on, the potential for underground utilities still exists even without them. In the previous blog post, we discussed test holes for underground utilities, which are useful in locating the exact horizontal depth and other characteristics of utilities using vacuum excavation. In some cases, our team at Trinity has uncovered utilities that weren’t marked on any plans, as there was never a need to dig. Utilities move in unexpected directions and can appear in locations far away from any surface features. Locating utilities is important in making sure that you understand what’s underneath, especially when it comes to the unexpected.

When it comes to the unexpected, nothing stands out more than the subsurface meeting the surface. Sinkholes bring forth the harsh realities of what’s underneath the surface, when the ground collapses due to water seeping in. They can be caused from a number of factors; both natural and man-made, appearing in unexpected locations both within interiors and outside. When it comes to utilities, underground water pipe leaks can be enough to form a sinkhole over time. Thankfully, these pipes can be located using electromagnetic location and ground penetrating radar. The leaks are uncovered through other techniques, including acoustic leak detection and smoke testing, to determine the faults in our pipes.

As the world builds upon itself, there are more and more unexpected structures underground. As mentioned earlier in the horror story opener to this post (but on a more serious note here), graves are often marked by headstones because they can become unexpected surface features. Graves, just like utilities, are also locatable using ground penetrating radar technology, which has been used for unmarked graves as well. One of the more notable examples of this occurred in 2012 when explorers came across the long lost tomb of King Richard III, turning a parking lot into an important part of England’s history after only four hours of digging. Outside of the more macabre stuff, entire buildings are demolished and built over every day. Parts of structures and utilities may be abandoned-in-place, becoming unexpected features over time. It’s important to understand your building’s entire footprint when it comes to structures. 

For further understanding of what’s underneath, reach out to our team at Trinity Subsurface to locate utilities and other structures. Our highly experienced team will help make the unexpected expected. Visit our website to find out more information about all of our services or call us to schedule for your next project!

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