Columbia Gas of Virginia Celebrates April as National Safe Digging Month

Contact: Bob Innes
(804) 768-6410
(804) 512-1425 - cellular
rinnes@nisource.com

CHESTER, VA. – April 2, 2012 – This April marks the fifth annual National Safe Digging Month, reminding Virginia residents to always call 811 before any digging project. In 2011, Columbia Gas of Virginia natural gas facilities were damaged 220 times and in 161 (73%) of these incidents the root cause was either lack of utility locate ticket or involved an excavator working around underground facilities. According to Common Ground Alliance, a national association focused on protecting underground utilities, more than 165,000 underground utility lines nationwide are damaged annually by digging.

Striking a natural gas pipeline can cause injury, significant repair costs, fines and inconvenient outages. Every digging project, no matter how large or small in Virginia requires a call to 811. Installing a mailbox, building a deck, demolition, installing an irrigation system and planting a tree or garden are all examples of digging projects that should only begin after a call to 811.

“As April marks the traditional start of digging season, we are using this month to strongly encourage individuals and professional excavators to call 811 before they begin digging,” said Dan Cote, general manager operations for Columbia Gas of Virginia. “By calling 811 to have the underground utility lines in their area marked at no cost to them, homeowners and professionals are making an important decision to share the responsibility by keeping themselves and their communities safe.”

When calling 811, homeowners and contractors are connected to va811 (Miss Utility), which notifies the appropriate utility companies of their intent to dig. Professional locators are then sent to the requested digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags, paint or both. Each type of utility has designated marking colors to clearly identify the type of underground facilities. The marking colors are:
• Red – Electric
• Yellow – Gas-Oil
• Orange – Communications
• Blue – Potable (Drinking) Water
• Green – Sewer
• Pink – Temporary Survey
• Purple – Irrigation
• White – Proposed excavation

The depth of utility lines can vary for a number of reasons, such as erosion, previous digging projects and uneven surfaces. Utility lines need to be properly marked because even when digging only a few inches, the risk of striking an underground utility line still exists.

As part of National Safe Digging Month, Columbia Gas encourages homeowners to take the following four steps and dig with care this spring:

Step 1 - Plan ahead – Always call 811 at least three days before digging, regardless of the familiarity with the property. By calling on Monday can insure utilities will be marked for the following weekend project.
Step 2 – Allow required time for marking – Utility companies have 2-working days to mark their facilities beginning at 7:00 am on the next working day after calling 811. It does not include weekends or official state or Federal holidays.
Step 3 – Respect and protect the marks – Do not cover up or destroy the utility markings as they indicate the approximate location of underground utilities. Contact the utility if marks are destroyed.
Step 4 – Excavate carefully – Do not dig with mechanized equipment within 24 inches of either side of the utility markings. Once the utility line has been exposed protect the integrity of the facility while digging.

About Columbia Gas of Virginia
Columbia Gas of Virginia delivers safe, reliable and clean natural gas to over 244,000 customers in portions of Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, suburban Richmond, Central Virginia, and the Shenandoah Valley, the Lynchburg region and parts of Western Virginia. With headquarters in Chesterfield County, the company is one of the 7 energy distribution companies of NiSource Inc. (NYSE: NI) serving 3.8 million natural gas and electric customers. Always call 811 before you dig and Dig with CARE. Learn more at www.ColumbiaGasVa.com.

About Common Ground Alliance
CGA is a member-driven association of nearly 1,400 individuals, organizations and sponsors in every facet of the underground utility industry. For more information, visit CGA on the web at www.commongroundalliance.com.

About va811 (Miss Utility)
The Virginia Utility Protection Service, commonly called Miss Utility of Virginia, is the not-for-profit organization created by Virginia’s utilities to protect their underground facilities. To learn more visit www.va811.com.
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