The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Call 811 Before You Dig

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted April 4, 2011

This past winter was very hard on my garden. A large number of flowering plants were killed by abnormally low temperatures, and ice damaged the few plants that survived. The winter weed crop, however, was quite healthy. So, yesterday I armed myself with a hoe and attacked the weeds. After a few minutes, I discovered something I hadn't seen before - a plastic corrugated pipe under one flower bed. I removed dirt from the top of the pipe and followed it for several feet. I even considered cutting into it. And then I remembered: Call before you dig. Every year millions of Americans - like me - dig in their lawns for a variety of reasons. But they don't consider the electrical wiring, water pipes, natural gas feeder lines, and phone lines that might have been buried safely below ground. A few days before doing any digging, it's important to call 811. "Eight-one-one should become as familiar to Americans as 911," says API pipeline director Peter Lidiak. "April is the traditional start of digging season. We strongly encourage individuals and companies to call 811 before they begin digging. Millions of us live, work or play near or above pipelines and other underground infrastructure."

Peter recommends that homeowners and professional contractors take the following actions before starting a new digging project:

  • Plan ahead. Call on Monday or Tuesday for work planned for an upcoming weekend, providing ample time for the approximate location of lines to be marked. Your local call center will send someone to your property to mark the underground public lines
  • Consider moving the location of your project if it is near utility line markings.
  • If a contractor has been hired, confirm that a call to 811 has been made. Don't allow work to begin if the lines aren't marked.

It's also important for parents to tell their children not to dig. Here are two videos that make the point quite well:

By the way, I didn't cut into or damage the corrugated line under my flower bed. I removed the weeds and covered it up with dirt. And now that I know where it is, I'll be able to avoid it in the future. But there's no doubt about it - I should have called 811 before I grabbed the hoe.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jane Van Ryan was formerly senior communications manager and new media advisor at the American Petroleum Institute (API), where she wrote blog posts and produced podcasts and videos. Before coming to API, Jane managed communications for a large science and engineering corporation, and for a top-tier research and engineering university. A few years ago, you might have seen her in your living room when she delivered the news on television. Jane officially retired from API in 2011 and now freelances as an independent communications consultant when not gardening at her farm in Virginia.