April is National Safe Digging Month. This month's goal is to remind everyone, whether a homeowner with a shovel or a professional excavator with machinery, to contact Virginia 811 Before You Dig. This is vital to safety. Simple projects like landscaping, fencing or even installing a mailbox can be dangerous and disruptive when digging without knowing where underground utility lines such as electric, communications, natural gas, water and sewer lines are located. Knowing where these underground utility lines are before putting a shovel in the dirt helps prevent injuries, property damage and inconvenient service outages.
Before contacting 811, mark your site with white paint or flags as this is the correct color for the proposed excavation area. After you contact Virginia 811, locators will come out and mark your property to indicate where your underground utilities are located with flags or spray paint. By law, the allowance time for marking is 48 hours beginning at 7:00 a.m. on the next working day after your ticket was submitted (excluding weekends and holidays). Before digging, you must wait until all utilities have been cleared on the ticket. It is important to remember that both homeowners and professional contractors must hand dig within two feet of all utility markings.
Utility companies will mark the approximate horizontal location of underground utilities to the point of consumption. Common examples:
- Natural Gas (marked yellow) will be marked to the gas meter, which is usually located on the side of the home or building
- Electricity (marked red) will be marked to the electric meter, which is usually placed on the side of the home or building
- Communications (marked orange) Telephone and/or cable television will be marked to the Network Interface Device (NID), which is usually placed on the side of the home or building
The points of consumption for water and sewer utilities are different. For water, that point is your water meter. That means the line connecting your house to the meter is considered “private” and will NOT be marked when you contact Virginia 811. Similarly, the point of consumption for a sewer line is the sewer cleanout, which is usually located within 5 feet of the edge of the property. The sewer line that connects your house to the sewer main at that cleanout will NOT be marked when you contact Virginia 811. A homeowner wishing to have these lines marked must contact a private company or locate the lines themselves.
Buried utilities are hit every few minutes in the United States. Striking a single line can result in serious injuries, service disruptions and costly repairs. Before starting any digging projects, no matter how large or small, it’s important to contact Virginia 811. You can submit a dig request online at VA811.com or call 811. Always remember to contact Virginia 811, which is free and easy, to have buried utilities marked before you dig on your property.