Noon Notebook 8/10: What you need to know before you dig - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Noon Notebook 8/10: What you need to know before you dig

Call 811  before you dig Call 811 before you dig

Each year, August 11th (8/11) is a reminder to dig safely and lawfully. 

It is important to dial 811 or connect online to have the approximate location of underground utilities and pipelines marked.

Whether you are building a fence, deck or swimming pool, planting a tree, or beginning a home project, make sure to dial 811 before you begin the work.

The depth of utility lines can vary and there may be multiple lines within the same area. 

The advance notice required to have underground lines marked varies by state, although most require 48 to 72 hours (excluding weekends, holidays and the day the call was made). 

In Texas, two working days are required in advance of a digging project. 

You can find state-specific information or place an online request to have lines marked by clicking here.

Texas Pipeline Awareness Alliance (TPAA) commonly asked questions:

What is the Texas Pipeline Awareness Alliance (TPAA)?

The Texas Pipeline Awareness Alliance (TPAA) is an association of pipeline operators that transport natural gas, petroleum and other products across Texas. The TPAA is dedicated to providing Texans with an awareness and understanding of pipelines and pipeline safety. Texas has many pipelines operating throughout the state and because they are buried and mostly out of sight, they tend to also remain out of mind...

What is Pipeline Safety Awareness?

Pipeline Safety Awareness is a broad effort to promote safe digging practices and protect our buried utility infrastructure. Damage from excavation activities to water and gas pipelines, along with sewer systems and buried distribution power lines, remains a leading cause of utility incidents resulting in death or injury.

8-1-1…How does that work?

8-1-1 is a nationally available, universal number to call before you dig to have all underground utilities located and marked at no charge. When you call 8-1-1, your call is routed to your local One-Call Center. Tell them where you plan to dig and what type of work you will be doing. Your local utilities or pipeline companies will be notified. In a couple of days they will send a locator to mark the approximate location of your underground pipelines or cables… so you’ll know what’s below and can dig safely.  In Texas, it’s the law that you must call 811 before any digging, large or small.  You must call at least 48 hours prior to beginning any project.

I’m just a homeowner, not a contractor. Is 8-1-1 for me?

Yes. Whether you are a do-it-yourselfer planning a weekend of landscaping or a professional contractor operating heavy equipment, one phone call to 8-1-1 can save lives, property and a lot of trouble. Installing a mailbox, building a deck, planting a tree or laying a patio are all examples of digging projects that need a call to 811 before starting.

What information do I give 8-1-1?

You tell them about your project including location and what is being done, as well as all necessary instructions to make sure the right area gets marked. They accept GPS coordinates if provided along with detailed driving directions.

Then what does 8-1-1 do with the information?

811 will tell you which utility operators or pipeline companies will be notified about your excavation near their underground lines.  They will provide you with a reference number that serves as a proof of your call. 8-1-1 keeps a complete record of your call to verify your compliance with the law.                                                                 

How can I tell if the pipeline company has the information?

The utility or pipeline company operators will be out within a couple of days to mark their underground lines, as they determine necessary, and you will be able to work safely without delay.

What if a contractor is doing the digging?

Before you dig or you approve someone else to dig on your property, you need to make sure they have a reference number from 8-1-1 and the lines have been marked before digging.  This ensures compliance with the law and most importantly ensures protection of your property, protection of vital services and possibly the saving of lives!

What if I accidentally hit a pipeline while digging?

Even if the pipeline does not appear broken or leaking after it is hit, immediately report the accident to the pipeline company so that the damage can be inspected and repaired if needed. A scratch, scrap or ding of a pipeline, if not promptly repaired, could, over time, result in a future leak or emergency.

The Pipeline Right-Of-Way markers, in addition to containing information about the operator and type of pipeline, also contain company contact information and phone numbers.

If the damage is more serious and the line appears to be breeched or ruptured or appears cut in any way, leave the area immediately and call 9-1-1 and the pipeline/utility company.

What if I have not been digging or I just happen by, how would I recognize a leak?

There are several potential signs of a leaking pipeline including the smell of any unusual odors, gas or petroleum or you might hear a hissing noise. Other clues might be bubbling earth or water or vegetation that appears dead or dying or a colorful sheen on water. More obvious signs would be dirt being blown into the air, a frost ball in an open field or a flame coming from the ground. If you see any of these signs, don’t go near and don’t ignore it. You should leave the area immediately and call 9-1-1 or your pipeline company.

Remember, if you think you’ve discovered a leak, leave the area immediately and, if possible, move upwind of the leak. If the leak is inside, move outside. Do not turn on or off electrical devices, appliances or switches or start an engine, a car or truck, or light a cigarette or cigar. These are all sources of possible ignition. After finding a secure place, call 911 and the local natural gas or Pipeline Company or 911 immediately.

The main cause of pipeline leaks and damage is digging?

It is. Digging without having pipelines marked is the most common source of serious pipeline damage and breaks. Remember to always call 8-1-1 before digging for any reason, whether is it to plant a tree, build a fence or construct an out-building. Then allow two days to have the lines marked. It's the law in Texas.

You say these pipelines are everywhere. What’s in them?

Pipelines are indeed practically everywhere. Texas has over 300,000 miles of pipelines operated by over 1,200 companies. They are a huge contributor to the Texas economy and the quality of our daily lives. Texas is the largest producer of oil and natural gas in the United States and Texans consume the most energy in the country, both per capita and in total. These pipelines are working every day to deliver that energy efficiently, safely and cost effectively. They gather natural gas from remote areas of production and transport it directly into your home where it is used for water and space heating, cooking and other purposes. Pipelines also deliver natural gas and oil directly to electric generation plants that are used to produce electricity to light your home and power your household appliances.

Other pipelines move crude oil from production areas to refineries and take refined products like gasoline and diesel to distribution centers to be trucked to your local gas stations for use in your cars and trucks. Other petroleum products are also commonly transported in pipelines from production facilities to distribution centers.

Are there other things that Texans should understand about pipelines?

Yes; even though pipelines are the safest, most cost effective and environmentally friendly way to move natural gas and petroleum products, and even though they are maintained and monitored day and night, occasionally they can leak.

A unique quality of natural gas is that it is naturally odorless so to make detection easier, pipeline operators odorize it to have a distinct smell, like a rotten egg or sulfur. If you smell that smell, leave the area and call the pipeline company immediately.

What are the most important things to remember?

Always call 811 a few days before digging, regardless of the depth or familiarity with the property.

  • Plan ahead. Call on Monday or Tuesday for work planned for an upcoming weekend, providing ample time for the approximate location of lines to be marked. 
  • Confirm with your local one call center that all lines have been marked.
  • Learn what the various colors of paint and flags represent at
  • Consider moving the location of your project if it is near utility line markings.
  • If a contractor has been hired, confirm that a call to 811 has been made. Don’t allow work to begin if the lines aren’t marked.

How does the Texas Pipeline Awareness Alliance (TPAA) work?

The TPAA uses television, radio, magazine, newspaper and Internet advertising, in both English and Spanish, as well as participation in public events and meetings to help educate the public on their role in pipelines’ safe operation. Additionally, representatives of TPAA member companies are interviewed throughout the year on television and for newspapers across Texas. The TPAA also operates its own Public Awareness website, also in English and Spanish to inform and educate about pipeline Right-Of-Ways, who to call before digging, how to recognize potential leaks and how to tell if there is a pipeline near your property.

What is the website where I can learn more?

Yes. Available in English and Spanish, it is: (Pipeline dash safety dot org)


Remember… the Texas law requires you Call 8-1-1 at least two working days in advance of digging.

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