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Keep Yourself from Having to Dig Out of Trouble

Date: August 01, 2019
Topics: Press Releases

Spring is an optimal time of year to dream up and achieve your landscaping masterpiece, but in many parts of the country, planting shrubs in early fall gives the plants a head start at establishing roots in the season's cool, moist soil. Perhaps you’re planning to build a new deck to enjoy those cool autumn evenings. If any of your fall projects require digging––such as planting trees or shrubs, or setting posts––remember to dial 811 first.

Underground utilities, such as buried gas, water and electric lines, can be a shovel thrust away from turning a fall project into a disaster. If you had a new fence to install at home, you would likely research property lines, ordinances, and fence types. Then you would get to the point of purchasing, prepping, and assembling materials to get work started.

“Before starting any digging project, call 811,” advises Amber Sabin, Safe Electricity Advisory Board member. “It is a free service that will have buried public utilities marked on your property so that you can safely dig around them. Just call 811, or submit an online request at call811.com at least a few business days before you plan to dig.”

Digging without having utility lines marked can result in damage to gas, electric, communications, water, and sewer systems. The Common Ground Alliance (CGA) estimates the number of underground excavation damages was approximately 317,000 in 2015.

The Daily Local News reported on a construction accident that occurred in Pennsylvania in December 2015. As the crew dug to replace water lines, they made contact with underground gas and electric utilities. This accident created a spark, which resulted in nearly two hours of burning.

Checking the safety of a location before you begin digging is important for both professionals and homeowners. It helps prevent accidents on projects of all sizes and scopes. According to the CGA, each year more than 15 percent of digging damages to utilities occur as a result of small jobs.

There are more than 20 million miles of underground utilities located in the U.S., and according to the CGA, every six minutes an underground line is damaged because someone began to dig before calling 811.

When contacting 811, make sure that you have clearly identified your planned digging area and outline it in white paint if possible. The service uses ground-penetrating radar to search for and locate the buried public utility lines that are on your property. Lines will be marked with flags or paint. The color indicates the type of utility located. After the area has been marked, the CGA reports that you have less than 1 percent chance of causing damage if you respect the markings.

If you have any private utilities, you will need to hire a private utility locator. Some examples of private utilities include: underground sprinkler system, invisible fences, data communication systems, private water systems, or gas piping to a garage.

If you do not know what facilities are on the property, look for clues to tell you what might be under ground, like a propane storage tank, gas meters, a detached garage or outbuilding with lights, a grill or pool on the property, manhole lids, storm drains, and pavement patches.

Even if you have had an area marked before, call to have the area checked again. Natural changes to the soil, such as erosion or root growth, can alter the depth and location of buried lines. Once all buried lines have been marked, respect the boundaries, and dig carefully.

Keep yourself from having to dig out of trouble, and call 811 before your digging project begins. For more safety information, visit SafeElectricity.org

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