Use the Free Service for All Digging Projects Large or Small
Next Wednesday (8/11) is National Safe Digging Day, serving as a reminder to PG&E customers, contractors and anyone digging to call 811 a minimum of two business days prior to starting any digging project, no matter how large or small. 811 is a free service for anyone planning to dig. Utility workers will respond at no cost to you and mark the location of any underground lines. Making that free call will help avoid injuries, property damage and costly repairs.
Warmer weather months see an increase in digging projects, and unfortunately many of those projects are proceeding without a free call to 811 to have underground utilities marked for project sites. In fact, throughout PG&E’s service area of Northern and Central California:
- 57 percent of all third-party dig-ins 2021 have been due to contractors and homeowners failing to call 811 before digging
- In 91 percent of residential/homeowner dig-ins, 811 was not called
- The average cost to repair damaged utility lines for a residential dig-in is $3,500
- Some leading causes of homeowner/residential dig-ins include: building or replacing a fence, gardening and landscaping, planting a tree or removing a stump, sewer and irrigation work and building a deck or patio
As part of 811 Day, PG&E will be conducting 811 Safe Digging Webinars on Wednesday, August 11 at 7:00 A.M. and 3:30 P.M. and on Saturday, August 14 at 9:00 A.M. Customers can join to learn about the 811 process and how to safely dig once all underground lines have been marked. There will also be a live Q&A session as part of each webinar. To access the webinars, visit pge.com/811.
“Calling 811 before your digging project, no matter how large or small, to have the location of underground utility lines marked will help keep you, your families and neighbors safe and connected to essential utility services,” said Joe Forline, senior vice president of Gas Operations for PG&E. “811 is a free service, and calling 811 and digging safely will help both homeowners and contractors avoid costly repair bills that can be in the thousands of dollars.”
Utility lines can be shallow, sometimes only a few inches below the surface, due to erosion, previous digging projects and uneven surfaces. Utility lines need to be properly marked because even when digging only a few inches or digging in a location that’s previously been marked, the risk of striking an underground utility line still exists. A call to 811 is the best safeguard and the first line of defense to preventing strikes on underground utility lines.
When calling 811, homeowners and contractors are connected to USA North, the local one call center, which notifies the appropriate utility companies of their intent to dig. Requests for a single address can also be made online at 811express.com. Professional locators then arrive at the digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags, spray paint or both. Underground Service Alert of Northern/Central California and Nevada (USA North) is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and will provide Spanish and other translation services.
- In 2020, there were over 1,400 third-party dig-ins on PG&E’s underground infrastructure across Northern and Central California.
- Of the over 1,400 dig-ins, nearly 800 resulted from not using 811 to have gas and electric lines marked in advance.
- Of the third-party (customers or construction crews) dig-ins to PG&E’s lines in 2020, residential dig-ins accounted for 31%.
- In 91% of residential dig-ins, 811 was not called in advance.
PG&E safe digging tips
- Mark project area in white: Identify the digging location by drawing a box around the area using white paint, white stakes, white flags, white chalk or even white baking flour.
- Call 811 or submit an online request a minimum of two working days before digging: Be prepared to provide the address and general location of the project, project start date and type of digging activity. PG&E and other utilities will identify underground facilities in the area for free. Requests can be submitted a maximum of 14 days prior to the start of the project.
- Dig safely: Use hand tools when digging within 24 inches of the outside edge of underground lines. Leave utility flags, stakes or paint marks in place until the project is finished. Backfill and compact the soil.
- Be aware of signs of a natural gas leak: Smell for a “rotten egg” odor, listen for hissing, whistling or roaring sounds and look for dirt spraying into the air, bubbling in a pond or creek and dead/dying vegetation in an otherwise moist area.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is a combined natural gas and electric utility serving more than 16 million people across 70,000 square miles in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit pge.com and pge.com/news.