As a rule, if you dig within 2 feet of the utility marking and damage the utility, you are responsible for the repair of that utility. Many times it can cost thousands of dollars to repair a broken utility. If you are not within 2 feet of the utility marking then you are not financially liable for the repair. The gas line we broke was over 23 feet away from the utility marking. It was literally on the other side of the street. How is that possible?
There is a lot going on under our feet. Beneath our groomed roads, sidewalks, driveways, and lawns are millions of miles of buried utilities. These utilities bring us our water, electricity, natural gas and entertainment via cable and fiber-optic lines. Some of these utilities are just a few inches beneath the surface and others are over 10 feet deep.
Many of these utilities bring service to tens of thousands of people so damaging one while digging can create life-threatening circumstances. Because of this hazard you are required by law to make a utility locate request 3 working days before any digging begins.
Digging a hole is a serious business. If potentially hitting an electrical line or natural gas line wasn’t enough to worry about, trench collapse kills dozens of workers every year. One cubic yard of earth can weigh 1.5 tons or more, and one cubic foot can weigh more than 100 pounds.
On this particular day, our job was to complete a “point repair” on a residential home. A point repair is replacing only a few feet of the sewer line. This point repair was a typical sewer repair 10 feet under the ground.
As always, we begin every dig by calling https://www.mo1call.com/ at least 3 days before a scheduled dig. No job site is to have any work started unless all locations of underground and overhead utilities and services have been clearly marked before beginning excavation.
Upon arrival at the sewer repair, we identified and located all of the utilities and location of the point repair. The electrical and gas lines were clearly marked and over 20 feet from our dig site.
After many years of running an excavator, the operator can feel the dirt as if the bucket was his own hand doing the digging. Many times this experience can prevent a mismarked utility line from being damaged. However, this job site required the excavator operator to dig through tree roots. There is no finesse when it comes to digging through live tree roots. You have to dig hard and break through them.
And that’s just what the operator was doing, breaking live tree roots when the excavator bucket sheared the gas line in half it instantly blew a 5-foot deep hole spraying the workers with liquid gas, dirt, and vapor. Everyone took off running. It was literally everything but a fireball.
We immediately called 911 and within minutes the fire department was on site shutting the road down and keeping everyone out of harm’s way. Our workers implemented their safety protocol and then the waiting began for the line to be repaired.
For over 2 hours the gas company wrestled with the pipe to repair the break. Once they were finished we were able to complete the sewer line repair.
Want to know what all the colors mean?
Here is the color-coded universal chart for underground markings in Saint Louis Missouri.
|Red||electric power lines, cables, conduit, and lighting cables|
|Orange||telecommunication, alarm or signal lines, cables, or conduit|
|Yellow||natural gas, oil, steam, petroleum, or other gaseous or flammable material|
|Green||sewers and drain lines|