Beware of dangers lurking below

Whether it’s a deck addition or a landscaping masterpiece, summer is a great time for outdoor improvement plans to actually play out.

But if those planned projects include digging, like planting a tree or bringing in a backhoe for trench work, you’ll have to wait so the job can be done safely. Underground utilities, such as buried gas, water and electric lines, can be a shovel thrust away from turning a summer project into a disaster.

Digger's hotline #811 graphic Know what's below.  Call before you dig.To find out where local utility lines run on your property, dial 811 or 800-331-5666 a few days prior to digging. The operator will ask where the digging will take place and what type of work will be done. Then, affected local utilities will be notified.

A locator will arrive to designate the approximate location of any local underground lines, pipes and cables with flags or marking paint. Homeowners will need to know the location of their private lines as the Digger’s Hotline service only covers local utilities. Then the safe digging can begin.

Although many homeowners tackling do-it-yourself digging projects are aware of “Call Before You Dig” services, the majority don’t take advantage of the service. A national survey showed that 45 percent of homeowners did not plan to call to have their lines marked before starting digging projects, according to the Common Ground Alliance, a federally mandated group of underground utility and damage prevention industry professionals.

Be mindful that seemingly simple tasks like planting shrubs or installing a new mailbox post can damage utility lines. A severed line can disrupt service to an entire neighborhood, harm equipment and potentially result in fines and repair costs.

Never assume the location or depth of underground utility lines. There’s no need: the 811 service is free, prevents the inconvenience of having utilities interrupted and can help you avoid serious injury. For more information about local services, visit

Sources: Common Ground Alliance, 

Posted August 2015

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