Do you use natural gas or propane in your home for heating or cooking? In a natural gas system, the pipe that connects your home to your natural gas supplier is called a distribution pipeline. Distribution pipelines are an integral part of the natural gas delivery system in the United States. In fact, there are over 2.1 million miles of lower-pressure natural gas distribution pipelines crisscrossing the Unites States, and most of them are underground. In a propane system, the pipe that connects your propane container to your home is also probably buried underground, similar to a distribution pipeline.
Digging in to a distribution 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, and 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.
For natural gas customers, 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.
For propane customers, a call to the propane supplier a few days prior to digging is the simplest way to prevent excavation damage. The propane marketer will be able to identify the location of any underground propane piping in your yard.
Whether you are a natural gas or propane customer, you should call 811 or your propane supplier before doing any digging, whether it’s to build a new fence, install a new mailbox, or plant a tree. Some distribution pipelines or propane supply lines are buried only 12-18 inches below the grass, so even digging with a shovel could result in a gas leak. 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.
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 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