SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — With spring months upon us, many people will take advantage of the warmer weather to do work around their home that involves digging. Whether it’s planting a tree or shrub, gardening or landscaping, or repairing or replacing a fence that was damaged during winter months, customers should call 811 two business days before digging to avoid damaging underground utility lines. To help increase awareness of the importance of calling 811, April is National Safe Digging Month.
Underground utility lines can be shallow, sometimes only a few inches below the surface, due to erosion, previous digging projects, shifting or settling of the ground and uneven surfaces. And damaging an underground utility line is dangerous and can leave customers responsible for repair costs averaging $3,500 and up. Calling 811 is free and easy, and professional utility workers will respond within two business days to mark the location of underground utility lines for your project site.
“During spring and summer months, we see an increase in incidents where underground utility lines are damaged due to digging projects. Even if your digging project is small, calling 811 will help you dig safely and avoid expensive repair costs,” said PG&E Gas Operations Senior Vice President Joe Forline. “There is far too much risk with guessing where utility lines are located or how deep they may be. The safest play is to call 811 before you dig and a crew member will come out to mark where your lines are located.”
By the Numbers
- During 2021, 811 was not called in advance in 89 percent of incidents when homeowners damaged an underground utility line while digging
- The average cost to repair a damaged utility line is $3,500
- Leading causes of damages to underground utility lines while digging 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
Calling 811 is Fast and Free
- Customers should call 811 a minimum of two business days before beginning any project that involves digging, no matter how large or small. Customers can also visit 811express.com to have underground utility lines marked for their project site.
- Professional utility workers for all utilities (gas, electric, water, sewer and telecommunications) will be dispatched to mark the location of all underground utility lines for the project site with flags, spray paint, or both
- The 811 call center serving Central and Northern California, USA North, is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and will provide Spanish and other translation services.
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.