Do You Call 811 Before Digging?

Tuesday, April 01, 2014
For Release:
April 1, 2014

Contact: Bob Innes
(804) 768-6410
(804) 512-1425 - cellular

April is National Safe Digging Month and Columbia Gas of Virginia Reminds the Public that Protecting Utilities is a Shared Responsibility

CHESTER, VA. – April 1, 2014 – The failure to call 811 and have all underground utilities located is the number one risk to public and personal safety for Columbia Gas of Virginia. In the last twelve months Columbia Gas has responded weekly to damages of natural gas facilities because someone failed to call 811 and have underground natural gas utilities located before beginning to dig.

Columbia Gas of Virginia reminds everyone to always call 811 at least 3 working days before you plan to dig to have all underground utility lines marked before the first shovel or backhoe bucket touches the dirt. It is free and will provide the caller an understanding of the location of all underground utilities within the area they intend to dig. Striking a single utility line can cause personal injury, repair costs, fines and loss of utility service.

“As April marks the traditional start of digging season, we are using this month to strongly encourage individuals and construction companies to always call 811 before they begin digging,” said Mike Huwar, VP and general manager operations for Columbia Gas of Virginia. “By calling 811 to have the underground utility lines marked, homeowners and professional excavators are making an important decision that can help keep them and their communities safe.”

Everyone who calls 811 is connected to va811 (Miss Utility), which notifies the utility companies with facilities in the excavation area of the caller’s intent to dig. Qualified professional utility locators are sent to the requested digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags and color-coded spray paint. Each type of utility has designated marking colors to clearly identify the type of underground facilities.
The depth of utility lines can vary for a number of reasons, such as erosion, previous digging projects and uneven surfaces. Installing a mailbox, building a deck and planting a tree or garden are all examples of digging projects that should only begin a few days after making a call to 811.

Columbia Gas of Virginia reminds any person planning to dig to following four simple steps and dig with care around underground utilities:

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.

If during excavation or digging in the yard, the strong smell similar to “Rotten Eggs” is present, Columbia Gas recommends you take the following actions:

• Immediately leave the area
• From a safe location away from the odor, call 911 and Columbia Gas of Virginia at 800.544.5606.
• Warn others to stay away from the area
• Leave windows and doors in their current position
• Avoid open flames or anything that could spark ignition - including cell phones, lights, garage doors or other power equipment.
• Do not attempt to operate pipeline valve or try to correct the leak.
• When emergency personnel arrive explain the situation to them.

About Columbia Gas of Virginia
Columbia Gas of Virginia delivers safe, reliable and clean natural gas to over 245,000 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

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