During severe flooding last fall, the 18-inch culvert beneath my driveway filled to the top with sediment. Result: severe erosion of the driveway and dirt road that led steeply uphill past my house to more homes on the hillside outside the Town of Lyons, Colo.
We used a long-handled shovel to dig out the sandy sediment at both ends of the 35-foot culvert (and make some repairs to the road). That left us with 30 feet of packed sand and rocks as large as 9 inches.
Putting out a call for assistance on the Public Works website and social media, we got various suggestions. Most involved a vacuum truck or large amounts of water. But with Colorado’s entire Front Range in dire condition, vacuum trucks in the area had much more pressing concerns than our driveway. And since our water supply is only by 1,000-gallon truck, high-volume water wasn’t an option, either.
Searching online we found a simple hand tool from Design-ALL LLC. The owner, Bryan, agreed to send us one to try out. The culvert cleaning tool is sort of a hoe on a swivel that allows one to push the tool flat into the culvert on a 10-foot piece of pipe. The hoe drops down when pulled back out, pulling debris with it.
My wife insisted that she was taking on this project. She worked for days, using the culvert cleaner and another tool she devised to first loosen the sediment enough to work the tool into place to pull out a shovel-full of sand and rock. Although she certainly made progress, the going was slow and the center of the culvert remained filled.
During the first big snow melt of the winter, though, we could tell water was moving through the culvert, albeit slowly. Then came a huge thunderstorm in June that seemed to have filled the ditch at the bottom of the culvert with sediment. We assumed the pipe was also filled. We then had the ditch below the culvert dug out with a back hoe and prepared to begin digging out the culvert again. But to our amazement, we could see that the rain had actually washed most of the sediment out and, with a little additional work with the tool, the culvert now is nearly free of sediment.
So, in the end, the tool worked very well once the culvert was less than packed full. The lesson is to not let it get packed full! The other difficulty was that with the culvert being so long, and the ditch below being deep and curving, it was impossible to use 20 feet of pipe to push the tool in and pull it back out without uncoupling the pipe on each pull. There isn’t that much clearance below.
We want to sincerely thank Design-ALL for the tool. Several neighbors had good success with shorter culverts that weren’t packed full. See more on this tool at www.design-all.com.