Man receives $854 bill for planting shrubs, hitting utility line

By Chris Papst

WASHINGTON (WJLA) — A Bowie man is facing a big bill after trying to plant some azaleas. That’s because he cut through a utility line – just a few inches below the soil.

This past summer, Mike Rious, was using small hand tools to plant a few bushes in his front yard when he hit a Verizon FIOS line. The company quickly made the repair. Rious thought that was it – until he received a repair bill for $854.

“That’s ridiculous,” said Rious. “I could understand if I had been excavating something. But I’m putting in shrubs.”

Dora Parks, with Miss Utility, says because Rious was digging on his own property without machinery, he was not legally obligated to call 811 to locate utility lines. But he can still be charged by the utility for the repair, which she said is common.

“The safe thing to do in every instance of disturbance of the ground, by any tool by any means is to call Miss Utility, so the utility companies can get out there and identify those lines,” said Parks.

“If residents are being exposed to this kind of liability for digging in their yards – not major excavation – something’s wrong,” concluded Rious.

7 On Your Side called the Verizon contractor that issued the repair bill. We were told there is no law for how deep phone and cable lines need to be buried. We were also told the repair bill had just been cancelled, but no further explanation was given.

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