Virginia 811 recently announced a new scholarship program for students focused on underground utility damage prevention.

Virginia 811 (also known as Virginia Utility Protection Service) plans to award two $1,500 scholarships to high school seniors. The students must have a GPA of 3.5 or higher, have at least one parent or guardian that works at a Virginia 811 member utility, a utility locator or a professional excavator who works in Virginia and whose company has successfully set up a Web Ticket Entry Account with Virginia 811.

“Virginia 811 is excited to be able to help successful candidates pursue further learning opportunities at the college level,” explained Scott Crawford, president and CEO of Virginia 811.

Applications are due by 5:00 p.m. on June 4. For more information, email

Welsh Utility Workers find MEDIEVAL TUNNEL

A Welsh utility company reported in March that workers excavating a trench for relocation of a pole on a customer’s property made an unusual discovery – a previously unknown medieval tunnel.

Western Power Distribution said members of the East Wales crew were working in Tintern, in the Wye Valley. The workers were excavating a trench when they discovered what they initially thought was a cave. Further investigation revealed it was a man-made tunnel around four feet in height. The tunnel ran under a sidewalk parallel to the Angiddy Brook, and appears to follow the brook’s path.

The crew’s manager called a representative of the Wales historic and cultural heritage service. He said the tunnel could possibly be linked to the iron work ruins previously discovered in the area. The Tintern Abbey iron works ruins is dated back to the 1100s.


The North American Society for Trenchless Technology (NASTT) recently honored Dr. John Matthews, director of Louisiana Tech’s Trenchless Technology Center and associate professor of civil engineering and construction engineering technology at the University. Dr. Matthews was awarded the 2021 NASTT Chair Award for Distinguished Service for prominent, long-standing service in the trenchless technology industry.

Also, Lynn Osborn, Trenchless Technology Center board member, and James Barbera, former TTC board member, were inducted into the NASTT Hall of Fame Class of 2020 for outstanding accomplishments and exceptional contributions to the advancement of the North American trenchless industry.

“I am very honored and was truly shocked when I heard about the award,” Dr. Matthews said. “This award is given annually by the NASTT Board of Directors Chair. Two previous TTC Directors have won this award (Dr. Tom Iseley in 2006 and Dr. Rod Sterling in 2009), so I am very humbled to join them.”

Gas Networks Ireland Marks One Million Hours Accident Free

Gas Networks Ireland has achieved the major health and safety milestone of one million hours worked – the equivalent of 14 months – without a lost-time staff incident for the second time in the last two years.

The announcement comes as the safety conscious national utility celebrates both World Day for Safety and Health at Work and International Worker’s Memorial Day, which promotes the importance of creating a health and safety culture to reduce workplace injuries, and remember those who lost their lives in workplace accidents.

Gas Networks Ireland’s safety milestone was achieved during the challenging period of COVID-19 restrictions. With essential site work continuing, much of it throughout the toughest public health restrictions, stringent COVID-19 protocols, training and PPE were quickly introduced and reviewed regularly in line with everevolving health advice from the government.

As well as a strong internal safety culture, Gas Networks Ireland also promotes public safety through its gas escapes emergency service, carbon monoxide awareness, dial before you dig service, anti-meter tampering advertising, and registered gas installer’s campaigns.


Gas Networks Ireland’s Design Safety Management System has been recognized as a finalist for the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA) Gas Industry “Safety Award.” Purpose-built to ensure compliance with regulations in Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the UK, the system centers on a principles-based approach to design safety that aims to exceed regulatory requirements.

“Ireland’s gas network is considered one of the safest and most modern in Europe. As guardians of Ireland’s gas infrastructure, we put safety at the heart of everything we do, and our design process facilitates a safe-by-design approach,” said Paul, O’Brien, Design Services Manager at Gas Networks Ireland. “We focus on mitigating risk during the design process to help prevent accidents during construction, maintenance and operation. We haven’t had a staff lost-time accident in over 12 months.”

Now in their 21st year, the annual Gas Industry Awards will recognize the best and most innovative projects in the industry in late May.

Maine’s Public Utilities Commission to Examine State’s Electric Distribution System

The Maine Public Utilities Commission opened a case in February to investigate the future design and operation of the electric distribution system in the state. The Commission will conduct an in-depth, structured, and comprehensive examination to determine how best to accommodate increasing amounts of renewable energy, including solar installations and energy storage, and substantial load growth with increasing electrification of the state’s heating and transportation sectors.

“To address climate change in years ahead, we will be placing new demands on our electric distribution system, and we must assess how to modernize the grid at the lowest cost for Maine people,” said Commission Chairman Philip L. Bartlett II.

The investigation will focus on the distribution systems of Maine’s investor-owned transmission and distribution utilities – Central Maine Power Company and Versant Power. In addition, the investigation will consider opportunities to create a more robust, flexible system to adapt to changing uses and needs.

Lack of Adequate Enforcement Undermines Damage Prevention (Eben Wyman, Special Locate 2020)

Sadly, Eben got a point wrong in the article. He cited CFR 192.707 for markings, and although the statute does reference marking, it has to do with permanent markings, not temporary markings. That statute is 49CFR 192.614 in particular. It reads: (3) Provide a means of receiving and recording notification of planned excavation activities; (4) If the operator has buried pipelines in the area of excavation activity, provide for actual notification of persons who give notice of their intent to excavate of the type of temporary marking to be provided and how to identify the markings; (5) Provide for temporary marking of buried pipelines in the area of excavation activity before, as far as practical, the activity begins.

His point on the Michigan law, I would have to defer to his expertise in that regard. His points though are valid in that more and more excavators are finding themselves in an impossible choice of waiting for the utility to respond or roll the dice without them and hope that they avoid hitting anything. And, of course, the utilities are more concerned about their bottom line than damage prevention. Add to that the current climate we find ourselves in where professional locate companies are dealing with employee absence due to the virus and not being able to hire due to training constraints, we have never been as bad as we are now. – Mark Hamrick, Damage Investigations Western Maryland, Verizo

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