This is true for any line that has been buried. “Our standard in Illinois is between 26 and 36 inches for direct-buried cable placed by trenching or chisel-plowing,” AT&T spokesman Jim Kimberly said. “There are several factors that influence the depths, such as city or county regulations or local topography, but our standard in Illinois is between 26 and 36 inches for direct-buried cable placed by trenching or chisel-plowing.”
What is the average depth at which power lines are buried?
Some low-voltage subterranean lines may be as shallow as 18 inches, whereas the majority of higher-voltage circuits will be at least 24 inches deep. Pay close attention to the location of any subterranean electrical circuits on your property.
How close can you dig to a utility line?
- Maintain a distance of at least 18 inches between your trenches or holes and the 811 markers. Because the equipment used to find subterranean wires aren’t always perfect, 811 standards recommend keeping holes or trenches at least 18 inches away from marked lines on both sides.
- If you built subterranean wiring or pipelines yourself, look up their location in your notes. Because most irrigation pipes and low-voltage wires are shallow, you can locate them by drilling a series of test holes by hand.
- Private location services can evaluate your property and locate any subsurface pipes, conduits, or wires for a fee. This is especially useful for private utility lines that were not installed by the government.
- Slowly dig. Irrigation lines and landscape lighting conduits and cables are not detected by 811 locating services, so dig slowly and deliberately, inspecting the excavation for unexpected pipes and wires on a regular basis.
Can I go as far as I can before dialing 811?
This figure comes from the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), and if it sounds disturbingly high to you, it’s because many people are unaware that they must call 811 before digging.
While the ground may not have thawed where you are, April is National Safe Digging Month, and it’s a good reminder to know what you need to do before breaking ground on this year’s projects.
According to data collated by CGA from various industry associations, there are more than 100 billion feet of subsurface utilities in the United States, so you can’t assume your customer’s property is free of them.
There is no limit to how deep a person can go before calling 811. CGA advises that any time you put a shovel in the ground, whether it’s to plant little shrubs or build a fence, you should contact because many utilities are buried just a few inches below the surface.
Even if an area has been designated previously, erosion and root system growth might change the depth or location of buried wires, so call each time you start a job.
Calling 811 is also not an optional chore, as every state has a different statute that requires people to contact before digging. While the amount of time you have to call 811 before digging differs by state, you can find your state’s standards here.
It is a frequent misperception that dialing 811 costs money; nevertheless, dialing 811 is completely free. Utility companies cover the cost to protect you, your staff, and your customers. When you don’t call, hit a utility line, and are held liable for the damage, the true expenses effect your business.
Some utility companies charge not just for the expense of dispatching a staff to repair or replace the damaged property, but also for the loss of service caused by the outage.
In recent years, some states have enacted penalties and fines to aid in the enforcement of the law. Mississippi passed a law in 2016 requiring first-time offenders to complete a compliance training course.
Second-time offenders within a five-year period must complete a training course or face a fine of up to $500 per offense. Malicious activities with the aim to destroy subsurface lines result in a training course and fines of up to $5,000 per event for third-time crimes in a five-year period.
Here’s how the 811 system works and what to expect:
- Two to three days before digging, call 811 or submit an online request to your local one-call center.
- The affected utility companies will be notified by the one-call center. Wait two to three days for the utility operators to react to your request (this varies by state). For each request, an average of seven to eight operators are notified.
- Verify that all of the operators who are affected have responded to your request. The process for confirmation varies by state.
- Dig around the designated locations with care. The majority of state rules prevent machines from being used within 18 to 24 inches of a utility that has been marked. Hand dig or use vacuum excavation if you need to dig closer.
Keep in mind that depending on the state, the locate ticket is only good for a set amount of time, and if you want to continue, you’ll need to call 811 for a re-mark.
Stop working immediately if one of your employees accidentally hits a pipeline. The processes that follow differ depending on the type of utility line hit.
When dealing with natural gas, propane, or petroleum lines, leave the area and contact 911 as well as the facility operator. Don’t do anything that could start a blaze, and make sure everyone is aware of the situation. Keep the public out by cordoning off the area. Stay away from the gas and do not attempt to repair the pipe on your own.
Warning everyone in the area, including emergency responders, that the ground and objects near the point of contact may be energized in the case of electrical wires.
If you have a radio or phone, call the electricity utility operator or the fire department. Otherwise, stay on the excavator and ask someone to call for utility and emergency help.
Those near the excavator or point of contact should keep both feet together and remain still. They must not come into contact with the excavator or the material. Only leave the excavator and the surrounding area after an official from the electric utility has declared it safe. If a fire, explosion, or other hazard requires quick evacuation, jump (not step) from the apparatus and land with both feet. Make sure you’re at least 25 to 30 feet away. Take no ordinary walking steps.
Notify the facility owner of any damaged communications cables, and do not study or stare at broken, severed, or disconnected fibers. Keep a safe distance away and block the area to keep others out.
Contact the pipeline operator after examining the situation and ensuring that nothing appears to be harmed. Minor nicks or dents can lead to major issues in the future.
If a homeowner has consulted you but intends to do it themselves, remind them that calling 811 isn’t just for professionals; anyone planning to dig must dial this number.
Before you dig in Illinois, who do you call?
JULIE is a utility notification system for subterranean utilities. Contractors, excavators, homeowners, and anybody who may be excavating can contact JULIE by dialing 811 (or 1-800-892-0123) to alert all utilities: gas, electric, and phone.
What’s the best way to dig around utilities?
Your power-digging work can start after you’ve called 811, waited the required time, and checked that all buried utility lines on your project site have been discovered and tagged, right?
No, not yet. Before working near an underground utility line, you must first dig around it to expose it and confirm its exact location and depth. The standards for hand-digging differ per state.
- Use hand tools or vacuum technology only within the tolerance zone, which is the width of the indicated utility plus 24 inches on either side of the outside edge in New York.
- Within 18 inches of either side of the indicated location of subsurface utilities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, power digging is prohibited, and hand digging or other nonintrusive methods are required.
Dig with care
When hand digging near buried utility wires, take the following precautions to avoid damage:
- Use a shovel with a rounded or blunt edge. Pickaxes, mattocks, pry bars, and pointed spades are examples of sharp instruments that can gouge or puncture lines.
- Begin excavating to the side of the utility line that has been designated. As you approach the utility from the side, use a delicate prying motion to break up the soil.
- Proceed with caution. Make no assumptions about the accuracy of the marks or the utility depth.
- To remove soil, never pry against a utility line. Don’t use both feet to puncture the earth or stomp on the shovel.
- Not simply a tracer wire or warning tape, but the actual line should be dug up.
Avoid muscle tension by wearing suitable personal protective equipment (PPE). Instead of twisting your torso to move the dirt, turn your entire body by moving your feet. To avoid tiredness, alternate shoveling between your left and right sides and take rests.
Protect utility lines
Support all exposed utility lines with materials that will not damage the conduit or pipe or its coating. Cast-iron pipelines should be handled with caution. When the earth around or near natural gas mains is disturbed in any way, they are prone to harm. When your excavation may encroach on a cast iron natural gas line by crossing or simply running parallel to it, notify National Grid right away.
Follow these guidelines when it’s time to backfill:
- Examine exposed lines for damage and notify National Grid of even small scrapes or dents.
- Using a blunt-edged shovel, backfill under exposed lines by hand.
- To avoid damage as the soil settles around the reburied lines, remove any pebbles or concrete from the backfill soil.
Report ALL damage
A minor gouge, scrape, or dent in an electric conduit, a gas pipeline, or the coating of a pipeline could result in a catastrophic burst or leak in the future. Furthermore, if the tracer wire fitted with plastic underground natural gas lines breaks or is damaged during your excavation and is not fixed, future excavators and the general public are at risk since the plastic natural gas line cannot be detected.
Even minor damage to a utility line should be reported to National Grid right away so that technicians can assess it and make the required repairs. If you come across or come across an unlabeled line, don’t assume it’s inactive or abandoned. It should always be reported.
What happens if I dig and come upon a water line?
Calling 811 before you dig is the most important step you can take to avoid an accident. When homeowners and contractors dial 811, a team of experts connects them with a team of experts who notify the proper utility providers of the requester’s purpose to dig. A team of professional locators is then dispatched to the excavation site to use color-coded paint and flags to indicate the locations of subsurface utilities.
Fast Fact: An underground utility line is broken every 6 minutes because someone decided to dig before dialing 811.
Even a single line struck when digging can result in significant injury, fines, hefty repair expenses, and power interruptions. So, even if you’re only excavating a few inches underground, we strongly advise you to have your utilities marked so you don’t accidentally hit one. Calling 811 before you start your project, whether you’re hiring a professional or doing it yourself, is smart digging!
What is the electrical code for buried wires?
- Exposed or underground wire must be listed according to its intended use. (The most typical nonmetallic cable for residential outdoor wiring lines is Type UF cable.)
- With a minimum of 24 inches of cover, UF wire can be buried directly (without conduit).
- Wire buried in rigid metal (RMC) or intermediate metal (IMC) conduit must have a ground cover of at least 6 inches; wiring in PVC conduit must have a ground cover of at least 18 inches.
- Surrounding conduit or cables must be backfilled with a smooth granular material that is free of pebbles.
- Wiring with a low voltage (less than 30 volts) must be buried at least 6 inches deep.
- From the required cover depth of 18 inches to the termination point above ground, or at least 8 feet above grade, buried electrical runs that transition from underground to above ground must be protected in conduit.
What is the price of Dig Alert?
Buried utilities can be found almost everywhere on your property, which is why you should always check with DigAlert before digging. You can protect subsurface utilities and avoid service interruptions by using DigAlert Direct or phoning 811 two (2) working days before to beginning your excavation, NOT counting the date of notification (4216.2(b)). This is a completely free service, and it is also required by law.
A DigAlert in the name of the person undertaking the work is required by law. If you engage a contractor, the responsibility for notification is legally theirs, but it could also be yours if it’s indicated in the contract’s fine print. However, as a homeowner, it’s a good idea to double-check with DigAlert just in case. You, as the homeowner, could be held accountable if the contractor is negligent in this task and damages subsurface utilities. “Better safe than sorry” applies in this circumstance.
If you’re not sure whether or not you should contact DigAlert, have a look at our explanations of some of the most frequent projects that homeowners perform on a daily basis and which fall under our jurisdiction. Please keep in mind that this is simply offered as an example and should not be construed as a comprehensive list. The legislation is clear: before excavating, start a ticket and have the utility lines marked.
Is it okay if I plant a tree near a gas line?
Trees, large shrubs, and plants with a woody stem like manzanita and juniper bushes should be placed at least 10 feet away from the gas pipeline, and larger trees should be put at least 14 feet away.
In Indiana, how deep are electric lines buried?
According to the interested party, the code official has indicated, without providing a citation, that in such cases, the cables/conductors must be encased in Sched. 80 PVC and buried a minimum of 28 inches below grade.