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Calling 811 before you dig protects the public and you

pic15457Every digging job requires a call to 811. 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 every 36 hours to damages of natural gas facilities. In many instances, these damages could have been avoided because someone failed to call 811 and have underground natural gas utilities located before beginning to dig.

Whether you’re planting a tree, installing a deck or digging a garden, Virginia law requires you to always call 811 at least three working days before you start to dig. A representative from each utility operator will mark the approximate location of the buried utilities at your dig site. It is a free service and will provide you with an understanding of which utility may be in conflict with your digging plans. Striking a utility can cause personal injury, repair costs, fines and loss of important utility service.

“April is the traditional start of the digging season, and we want the public to be safe when working in their yards or on a construction site,” said Phil Wilson, VP and general manager operations for Columbia Gas of Virginia. “Once you call 811, utility representatives will place colorful paint or flags identifying the location of each utility within your work site and then you can begin to dig carefully around all underground utilities.”

Everyone who calls 811 is connected to Virginia811, which notifies all 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. Yellow is the designated color for gas and oil pipelines.

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 and call 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.  Call the utility if you need assistance.

If during excavation or digging in the yard, the strong smell similar to “Rotten Eggs” is present, Columbia Gas urges 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 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.
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