Railroad Commissioners: Call 811 To Be Safe Before Digging; April National Safe Digging Month

04/08/2010

AUSTIN ––Railroad Commissioners today urged Texans to call 811 before starting any springtime digging in their gardens and yards, because the number one cause of the pipeline accidents in Texas are caused by excavation—or digging into pipelines.

Excavation related damages account for 76 percent of all Texas pipeline accidents. Corrosion accounts for another 12 percent, and operator error and material failure account for the remaining 12 percent of the Lone Star state’s pipeline accidents. In 2009, 9,660 incidents of third-party excavation damage were reported to the Commission, which is down from the 12,843 incidents reported to the Commission in 2008.

Not calling 811 before digging or incorrectly marked pipelines, can result in fines of up to $10,000 per day per violation. In addition, the Commission may assess an enhanced violation of up to $25,000. In calendar year 2009, the Commission collected more than $1 million in penalties for excavation damages. Generally, natural gas pipelines must be buried at least 36 inches deep. However, actual pipeline depth may be less due to soil erosion, previous digging projects and uneven surfaces. Also, natural gas distribution mains are buried at 24 inches depth and natural gas service lines from mains to individual homes are buried at between 12 to 18 inches of depth.

“With the spring digging season underway, before you break ground on any project call 811 to get underground pipelines marked,” said Chairman Victor Carrillo. “This is a free service that can save time and money, decrease liabilities and maybe even prevent injuries.”

Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones said, “Know what is below ground and call 811 at least 48 hours before you plan to dig. Otherwise, failing to call in a request for pipeline locations may result, at a minimum, in inconvenient outages and legal penalties.”

Commissioner Michael Williams said,” Every month, our conference agendas are filled with pages of excavation violations. Since these penalties were enacted in September 2007, we’ve educated Texans to call 811 before digging, and we need to continue to work to get the word out on safe digging practices.”

For more information on safe digging practices, view the Pipeline Damage Prevention Program link on the Commission’s website:http://www.rrc.texas.gov/ and also the Safe Digging Month link at: http://www.call811.com/