April Marks National Safe Digging Month

04/01/2015

Texas Railroad Commissioners remind Texans to call to 811 Before Digging

AUSTIN –As Texans begin spring planting and outdoor projects, it is an important time to remind the public they must call 811 before digging and follow safe practices to help prevent injuries, property damage and inconvenient outages. The 811 call to one-call notification centers prompts pipeline operators to mark their underground pipelines in a requested area, making springtime digging projects in gardens and yards safe. This year marks the eighth year of the annual 811 awareness campaign, known as National Safe Digging Month.

“With more than 425,000 miles of active pipelines that support our state’s energy needs, Texas has more miles of pipeline than any other state,” said Chairman Christi Craddick. “It is critical that all Texans are aware of this vital underground infrastructure and the importance of calling 811 before digging to reduce the risk of striking a pipeline.”

Commissioner David Porter said, “Don’t gamble with your safety; call 811 so you don’t have to call 911. Whether you're planting a tree or shrub or installing a deck or pool, make a call to 811 if you are digging deeper than 16 inches.”

Commissioner Ryan Sitton said, “Failure to call before digging is one of the leading causes of pipeline accidents. The vast majority of these incidents are minor and do not cause injuries, but we want to keep families and neighborhoods safe. Whether you are landscaping your yard or building an extension to your home, the first step is always to call 811 before digging.”

The top cause of pipeline accidents in Texas is failure to call 811 before digging or excavating, and 22 percent of pipeline damage is caused by people digging with hand tools, such as shovels. Excavation-related pipeline damage incidents have dropped since the start of the Commission’s Pipeline Damage Prevention program from 12,847 in 2007 to 9,357 in 2014.

In Texas, failure to call 811 before digging or incorrectly marking a pipeline can result in fines of up to $200,000 per day per violation. If a pipeline is damaged during excavation, the Railroad Commission requires the responsible party to call 811 to report the damage and to also submit a Texas Damage Report Form to the Commission within ten days of the incident. Failure to properly report pipeline excavation damage can lead to fines.

Minimal federal safety standards specify the depth at which natural gas pipelines must be buried when they are installed. However, actual pipeline depth can vary due to a number of factors including soil erosion, previous digging projects and uneven surfaces.

The call to 811 is free and must be made at least two business days before digging. Homeowners, excavators and contractors who call 811 are connected to one of the two state One-Call Centers operating in Texas. The One-Call Center then notifies underground facility operators, including pipelines. Locator personnel are dispatched to the digging site to mark the locations of underground pipelines and utilities with flags, spray paint or both.

More information can be found on the Commission’s website at this link.

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About the Railroad Commission

Our mission is to serve Texas by our stewardship of natural resources and the environment, our concern for personal and community safety, and our support of enhanced development and economic vitality for the benefit of Texans. The Commission has a long and proud history of service to both Texas and to the nation, including almost 100 years regulating the oil and gas industry. The Commission also has jurisdiction over alternative fuels safety, natural gas utilities, surface mining and intrastate pipelines. Established in 1891, the Railroad Commission of Texas is the oldest regulatory agency in the state. To learn more, please visit http://www.rrc.texas.gov.