Dial before you digPicture your typical day: Taking a shower, driving a car, surfing the Internet, watching television, heating your home — these and more everyday activities are made possible by more than 20 million miles of underground utility lines that crisscross the United States.
By: Mark Willoughby, Superior Telegram
Picture your typical day: Taking a shower, driving a car, surfing the Internet, watching television, heating your home — these and more everyday activities are made possible by more than 20 million miles of underground utility lines that crisscross the United States.
Underground utility lines are damaged about once every three minutes — that’s 175,000 times a year — and the number of unreported close calls may be even greater.
A quarter of all reported hits on buried utilities were caused because an excavator did not call to have utility lines marked before digging, according to the Common Ground Alliance, an organization dedicated to promoting effective damage-prevention practices.
Enbridge operates underground pipeline systems in this area and throughout the United States and Canada. We are joining other underground utility operators, including pipeline operators, and government agencies across the United States and Canada in declaring April “National Safe Digging Month.”
The purpose is to call attention to simple measures that may prevent injury and inconvenience.
Damaging utility lines can cause injuries, damage property, disrupt vital services, harm the environment, and lead to expensive fines and repair costs. Before engaging in any soil-disturbing activity, you should always call 811, a free, national one-call number, to have underground utilities marked.
Calling 811 is the most effective means of reducing or eliminating underground utility damage. In cases where the excavators call 811 first, the job is completed damage-free more than 99 percent of the time, according to an industry study.
Calling 811 is fast, easy and free. Contacting the state one call center before digging through 811 is also required by law in all 50 states.
Here’s how it works:
Two to three days before you plan to dig, call 811 to tell them where the site is located, the type of work you will be doing, and the date and time when excavation or digging will begin.
The size of the project doesn’t matter and can be anything from a professional excavation job to building a new deck or putting up a fence, to planting trees and shrubs.
You should call even if you think you know where utility lines are located. Flags and markings from previous digging projects may not accurately indicate the location of utility lines. The depth of utility lines may vary because of erosion, previous digging projects or uneven surfaces.
Professional locators will then come to your site to mark the approximate location of pipelines and underground utilities, so you can safely dig around them. There may be some lines that will have to be located by a private locating service, which is not a free service. One example might be gas lamps in your yard.
It’s critical that you wait the required amount of time to have utility lines marked before beginning any digging project so you can dig safely around the utility.
Multiple utility lines may appear together at one location, and even nicking a pipeline can result in serious future consequences. If you do nick or cut a line, call the pipeline operator immediately to report the damage. Even if you do not believe you caused a leak, you may have removed protective coating or damaged the pipeline, which could cause a leak months or even years down the road.
During national safe digging month and throughout the year, excavators, locators and utility owners are working together to keep communities safe by preventing damage to pipelines and utility lines.
We urge you to help in this effort by always remembering to dial 811 before beginning any digging project.
Mark Willoughby is general manager in the Superior region for Enbridge.