Columbia Gas of Virginia Celebrates National Safe Digging Month

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

March 27, 2013 – This April marks the sixth annual National Safe Digging Month, reminding Virginia residents to always call 811 before any digging project. In 2012, Columbia Gas of Virginia natural gas facilities were damaged 248 times and in 56 (23%) of these incidents the root cause was the lack of utility locate ticket or failure of homeowner to dig safely around natural gas lines. According to Common Ground Alliance, a national association focused on protecting underground utilities, across the country an underground utility line is damaged every eight minutes because someone decided to dig without first calling 811.

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 Mike Huwar, vice president and 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 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.