Digging damage is down in 2018. That’s according to the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, which said calls to 811 — the state’s utility locate service — were up more than 9 percent in 2018, resulting in fewer reports of damage to underground utility lines.
The state’s “Call Before You Dig” law requires anyone planning to dig to call 811 at least two business days before their planned project start date. The law applies to any kind of digging project, including installing a fence or mailbox, building a deck, planting a tree, installing signage, or beginning any other below-ground project.
The commission noted that increased construction activity throughout the state resulted in a 9.5 percent increase in utility locate requests. As calls increased, however, damage to underground utility infrastructure reportedly decreased, with 5.3 reported damage incidents per 1,000 locate requests in 2018 — a decrease from the 6.5 reported damage incidents per 1,000 locate requests in 2017.
UTC pipeline safety inspectors investigated 107 dig incidents and sent 480 warning letters in 2018. The commission issued more than $160,000 in penalties against excavators last year for violations of the dig law. Many of the violations resulted in interruptions to essential water, telecommunications, natural gas, and electric services.
Calling 811 connects people to the “Washington state one-call center.” A representative at the center will ask for specific information about the digging project, then notify the appropriate utility companies. Professional locators are sent to the site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with spray paint.
People also can request a utility locate and check the status of their request online at callbeforeyoudig.org.
“The risk of damaging an underground utility line exists anytime you dig,” the UTC’s release states. “Striking a utility line can cause injuries, damages, fines, and outages. The depth of utility lines can vary for reasons ranging from erosion, previous landscaping, and uneven surfaces.
People who run into problems with a utility locate that is late, incomplete, or inaccurate should call the UTC Consumer Help Line at 1-888-333-9882 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information on 811 and the call before you dig process is available online.