Pipelines transport much of the natural gas, liquid fuels and other hazardous materials that Americans use every day. In fact, there are over 500,000 miles of large-diameter, high-pressure pipelines crisscrossing the United States. These pipelines are in every state, and most are underground.
Digging in to a pipeline can result in catastrophe. Excavation damage - or digging in to pipelines - is one of the leading causes of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipeline accidents that cause property damage, injury or death. Even scraping or nicking a pipeline can cause a future leak. But the good news is that damaging pipelines while digging is entirely preventable.
A call to "811" is the simplest way to prevent excavation damage to underground pipelines. Call 811 from anywhere in the country a few days prior to digging, and your call will be routed to your local One Call Center. Tell the operator where you are planning to dig and what type of work you will be doing and your affected local utilities companies will be notified about your intent to dig. They will send a locator to mark the approximate location of underground utilities (including pipelines) so you will know what's below and be able to dig safely.
Any digging before calling 811 is dangerous. Pipelines can be just a few inches below the surface. Deep excavation is particularly dangerous. Examples of deep excavation that can easily damage pipelines include deep tilling, installing or repairing drain tile, digging a new well or pond, installing a septic system or installing fence posts. If you do this kind of work without calling 811, you are risking your life and your property.
In most cases, a call to 811 is required by law before digging. In some states, a call is not required for some farming activity, such as routine tilling. However, it is still advisable to call 811 before any digging activity. To learn more about the requirements of your state's excavation damage prevention law, visit http://primis.phmsa.dot.gov/comm/DamagePreventionSummary.htm or contact your local One Call Center.
Marathon Pipe Line created a video that highlights the dangers of deep excavation on farmland. The video is a testimonial by farmers who barely escaped a pipeline disaster when they installed field tile before calling 811. You can view the video at http://youtu.be/oe-iknpYzF8.
April is National Safe Digging Month. Be safe and understand your responsibility to dig safely. Do not assume that you know what is underground in the area you are digging, and do not assume you are exempt from one-call requirements. Do not make a judgment call. Make a phone call - to 811 - before every digging project. To learn more, visit these websites:
· General information about calling 811: www.call811.com
· Information about National Safe Digging Month: www.call811.com/campaign-materials/safe-digging-month.aspx
· U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration damage prevention website: primis.phmsa.dot.gov/comm/DamagePrevention.htm