Calling before you dig is important – and the law

Calling before you dig is important – and the law

Victor GaglioPublished 12:50 p.m. ET Aug. 12, 2017

Victor Gaglio is head of gas utility operations for Duke Energy, which has 1 million natural gas customers served by Piedmont Natural Gas in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, and 529,000 Duke Energy customers in Ohio and Kentucky.

These days construction and excavation have become year-round activities, but this time of year people are planning outdoor projects that often involve sinking shovels into dirt. That means increased chances of accidental damage to buried utilities that bring natural gas, electricity, water and communications services into our homes.

Digging accidents are the leading source of damage to underground utilities. Sadly, most of these incidents could be prevented by calling 811, the national call-before-you-dig number, to have buried utilities located and marked prior to digging.

It couldn’t be easier, yet every six minutes nationwide an underground utility line is damaged, often because someone did not call 811. Striking a buried utility can cause serious injury, disrupt service to an entire neighborhood, and potentially result in fines and repair costs.

Calling 811 is so important that lawmakers in Ohio have made it mandatory for contractors – who account for the majority of damage – and homeowners, and established fines and penalties for repeat offenders.

Despite the law, the number of accidents involving damage to Duke Energy Natural Gas lines jumped 12 percent in 2016, but are trending down 20 percent in 2017 through June. A contributing factor to the recent decline is the increased usage of the 811 system. It’s costly and inconvenient for everybody, including municipalities forced to send out crews to fix water line breaks at taxpayer expense.

Natural gas is one of the safest forms of energy available, and Duke Energy continually invests in the safety and reliability of our distribution system. But eliminating preventable accidents is a responsibility the entire community must share.

Please call 811 before you dig. It’s the law.

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