It may not be treasure in the traditional sense, but what’s buried under your lawn is pretty valuable stuff.
A few inches underground, beneath your green grass and lovely landscaping, is a complex network of cables, wires and pipes that bring services such as electricity, natural gas, communications, water, sewer and other utilities to your home.
Nearly all these accidents could have been prevented simply by calling 811 before digging.
Nationwide, one out of every three damages to these underground utility lines is the result of uninformed digging. Underground lines can be damaged by something as small as digging or plowing around a home for an improvement project to breaking ground on a new building development. Nearly all these accidents can be prevented simply by calling 811 before digging.
“At a time when many are working from home, calling 811 is really the only way to know which utilities are buried in your area so that you can dig safely and keep your family, friends and neighbors safe and connected to essential utilities like electricity,” said Brad Adcock, director of safety and training for Walton EMC.
Call before you dig
Many are taking advantage of April’s warmer weather to tackle yard projects that involve digging. Not coincidentally, this month is also designated as National Safe Digging Month.
April is National Safe Digging Month.
Every digging project, no matter how large or small, warrants contacting 811 by phone or online before you pick up a shovel. Installing a mailbox, building a deck, planting a tree and laying a patio are just some examples of digging projects that need a call to 811 before starting.
“Call before you dig” is more than a suggestion. It’s also the law here in Georgia. Uninformed digging that results in damage to a utility line can result in a fine of up to $5,000 per violation in this state.
Steps to safer digging
Make the call.
One free, simple phone call to 811 will notify Walton EMC and all other appropriate utility companies of your intent to dig.
Provide advance notice.
Contact 811 at least three full business days (but no more than 10 days) prior to digging to ensure utility lines are properly marked.
Provide your project info.
When you call, a representative from 811 will ask for the location and description of your digging project.
Allow utilities to mark underground lines.
811 will notify Walton EMC and other affected utilities that will then send professional locators to the dig site to mark the exact location of any underground lines.
Understand the location marks.
Each type of buried utility has its own color code. For instance, red signifies an electric power line. Marks may be painted or located with flags. See the color code map table below for specific information.
In more ways than one, the value of underground utility lines is a lot like buried treasure.
There are more than 20 million miles of underground utility lines in just the United States. That’s more than one football field’s length (105 yards) of buried utilities for every single American.
Those buried utilities provide both necessities and conveniences. Playing a risky game of uninformed digging can have costly consequences.
On the personal side, striking an electrical line with a shovel could result in electrocution. This can cause severe injury or even death.
At the very least, damaging a buried utility line could knock out a service you and your neighbors depend on. Such careless disregard for others won’t place you high on anyone’s favorite neighbor list.
Damaging underground utilities also has a significant monetary cost. In 2019, 532,000 excavation-related damages amounted to more than $30 billion in direct and indirect costs in the U.S., according to data collected by the Common Ground Alliance, the nonprofit association dedicated to protecting underground utility lines and the safety of people who dig near them. Put in perspective, that’s more than double the U.S. federal law enforcement budget for the same year.
If you strike a line
For safety’s sake, always hand dig within two feet on either side of marked lines. If damage or disturbance of an underground utility line still occurs, contact the affected utility immediately so it can inspect for damage.