Knowing how deep water, electrical or gas lines should be buried in a yard is a homeowner’s responsibility. If you’re a professional excavator or a homeowner, smart digging requires a call to 811. Ultimately knowing where underground utility lines are buried before digging begins will help protect against injury and prevent any damage to utilities and avoid service disruptions. It also helps prevent potential fines and repair costs that can arise if improper digging occurs.
This is important whether you’re just digging and planting trees or shrubs or installing decks or pools. A simple call can save you thousands. The depth of lines will vary and there may be many utility lines in one area. Marked lines will show you the approximate location of these underground lines and will help prevent these things from occurring.
The local One Call Center will advise you of how long it will take for a crew to mark the lot and when digging can begin. Locally affected utility companies will mark these lines for free. While laws vary from state to vary, 811 and a customer service representative can talk you through the process. Call 48-72 hours excluding weekends or holidays) before you plan to begin your projects.
Marking will occur 1-2 days after calling. Lines will be marked with different colors of paints. Red means electric, orange means telephone or communications, blue means potable water, green means sewer or drainage, yellow means gas or petroleum pipe line, white means Premark site for intended excavation and purple means reclaimed water.
Important Things To Know
When two or more buried cables are present in one area, each cable will be marked separately. This occurs even if they are in the same trench or close together. If any flags are used, there will be one for each circuit. A single flag will be placed on a center stripe if there is a single circuit with three different conductors. Multiple wire circuits are bundled together at a single mark.
In terms of underground natural gas facilities, excavators will deal with different gas lines with different colors, materials and sizes. Natural gas lines typically range from ½ inch to 30 inches in diameter with pressure from 15 pounds per square inch to 1,000 pounds per square inch. Materials used can include copper, steel or polyethylene.
When working around buried facilities, remember that main lines are typically at least 2 feet deep while service lines are only at about 18 inches deep. Existing grades can change and the current depth may be different when it first was installed. Use clearance guidelines when working around these types of facilities.
When backfilling underground facilities, keep in mind that all underground facilities exposed during the excavation time should be inspected to determine if they have been damaged, struck, dislocated or disrupted in any way. Even a small dent or nick can lead to facility failure in the future. If this has occurred, notify your local municipality and/or utility companies for inspection and repair to occur. If damage occurs you will smell a strong odor of rotten eggs or hear a hissing sound. If this occurs, stop work immediately and call 911 if natural gas leak is expected. Turn of all power equipment and remove any open ignition sources. Keep a safe distance from the area and NEVER bury the damaged facility in any way. Always use well-compacted soil around underground facilities in order to protect them from immediate or future problems. Never place heavy materials or rocks with sharp edges on any exposed facility.
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Be sure to use signs, barricades or tape in order to keep yourself and your equipment away from overhead lines. Federal laws requires at least 10 feet of clearance. If you must work closer than this, contact your local utility company before performing any work where this safety arrangement cannot be made. Also, always use a spotter to judge the distance from your equipment to overhead lines.
If your equipment does come into contact with power lines, call 911 and move all equipment away from the line. Warn others to stay away from the area and remind them that anyone on the ground that touches the equipment can be hurt or even killed. If danger such as fire forces you off of the equipment, be sure to jump clear without touching the ground and equipment at the same time. Keep both feel on the ground taking shuffling steps or hop away from the area on two feet while keeping your feet together.