How Deep Are Utility Lines Buried In Washington?

Digging up underground utility lines can be a life-changing experience. It will, however, zap your wallet as well.

This year, anyone who fails to use Washington’s free “Call Before You Dig” service and digs up gas or electric lines may face harsher penalties.

Utility companies and state regulators increase their warnings to call 811 at least two business days before digging when homeowners, landscapers, and excavators get active outdoors each spring. It’s necessary by state law to prevent injuries, property damage, and power disruptions.

Initial offenses are still $1,000, but further violations within three years now cost $5,000.

A $10,000 fine and a misdemeanor charge can be imposed for damaging a hazardous liquid or gas transmission pipeline.

“We wanted to convey a message to people that this is really important, and that if you disobey the law, there would be consequences,” Anna Gill, pipeline program expert for the state Utilities and Transportation Commission, said.

In Washington, 1,289 incidences of gas pipeline damage caused by individuals digging were documented last year. Damage data on other types of power lines have not been gathered by the state, but will begin this year.

During the 2011 parliamentary session, the UTC pushed for tougher sanctions and more stringent enforcement of the dig rule, and the new law went into effect on Jan. 1.

Underground line damage must now be reported within 45 days by excavators and utilities. Damage to regulated natural gas and hazardous liquid lines was previously the only thing that required to be reported.

A 13-member dispute resolution board was also established under the new law to hear complaints of suspected infractions and propose enforcement action to the UTC. Anyone can make a complaint if they believe the dig law is being broken.

“The (811) system is frequently used, which is fantastic,” Gill said, “but it’s difficult to reach every single household or nonprofessional digger.” ” They aren’t always aware that such a necessity exists. Unfortunately, we do not have the resources to conduct a large-scale communication campaign to make everyone aware of the situation.

Before planting a tree, erecting a mailbox post, erecting a fence, or excavating more than 12 inches deep in a yard or garden, homeowners and professionals should know where buried utility lines are located, according to experts.

When someone dials 811, a utility representative will arrive to find and mark all underground utility lines.

Because buried electrical wires or natural gas pipes can be dangerously close to the surface, residents are encouraged to dig carefully around indicated locations with a hand tool. Contact with a shovel or backhoe by accident is dangerous and perhaps lethal.

Last year, Avista Utilities, based in Spokane, completed 80,629 locates on its subterranean lines, with 517 reports of line dig-ins.

In the Northwest, Avista has around 6,000 miles of underground electric distribution lines and 7,650 kilometers of natural gas distribution lines. According to the utility, lines are buried at a depth of 3 feet on average.

However, not all wires are 3 feet underground, according to Gill. “In an ideal environment, they would be,” she added, “but telecommunications, for example, is known for having extremely shallow buries, often as little as an inch or two.”

Call the UTC Consumer Help Line at (888) 333-9882 if a locate service is late, incomplete, or wrong.

In Washington State, how deep does a gas line have to be buried?

What is the recommended depth for burying gas lines? As a result, state and county regulations restrict the depth of natural gas pipes. In general, a gas line has two portions that are 24 inches deep and eighteen inches deep, whereas a service line has two sections that are 24 inches deep and thirteen inches deep, respectively.

What is the recommended depth for burying utilities?

In most cases, the needed gradient of 1:40 to 1:80 for foul water drainage and 1:100 for surface water drainage, as well as the sewer you’re connecting to, will govern the depth that any pipes are run.

Plastic drainage pipes should be placed 600mm below gardens and fields and 900mm below roads and driveways, according to the Building Regulations Part H regulation.

What is the depth of a utility trench?

  • Call for Underground Locates at least 48 hours before digging at (800) 332-2344 or 811.
  • Trenches must be at least 36 inches deep.
  • If you can’t get a 36-inch depth, call Lane Electric’s Engineering Department at 541-484-1151.
  • The following separations must be maintained if the trench is to be a common trench (shared with other utilities):
  • There should be a gap of 24 inches between the gas and electric lines.
  • Water and electric lines should be separated by 12 inches.
  • Between the sewer and power lines, there should be a gap of 24 inches.
  • Between communications and power lines, there should be 12 inches between them.
  • If the trench will only be used for power, it must be wide enough to fit the conduit, which means a 4-inch ditch-witch trench will suffice.
  • The conduit must be bedded with a minimum of 4 inches of sand if the trench is dug through hard, rocky terrain.
  • Gray Schedule 40 electrical PVC must be used for all conduits.
  • At any 90-degree curve, all primary conduit (7200V) must be 3 inches in diameter with 36-inch radius long sweeping elbows.
  • For a 200 Amp service, the secondary (120/240V) conduit must be 3 inches in diameter, with 36-inch radius long sweeping elbows at any 90 bend.
  • For a 400 Amp service, secondary (120/240V) conduit must be 3 inches in diameter, with 36-inch radius long sweeping elbows at any 90 bend. (As an example, see Exhibit A.)
  • At any 90-degree bend, street or security lighting conduit must be 1.25 inches thick with 36-inch radius long sweeping elbows.
  • In any one run of primary or secondary conduit between devices, there will be no more than 270 bends (3-90 bends or 2-90 & 2-45 bends).
  • Mandrel proofing is required for all primary conduits.
  • Details on mandreling can be found in Exhibit I.
  • All primary and secondary conduits must be left with new 2500# mule-tape. Mule-tape must be able to move freely in conduit and have enough length (10 feet or more) beyond each end to allow for conductor installation. Mule-tape is available for free at Lane Electric.
  • Specifications for transformers and primary or secondary junction boxes must be obtained from Lane Electric’s Engineering Department.
  • (Common facilities are shown in Exhibits B-G.)
  • Call Lane Electric at 541-484-1151 to schedule an inspection with the Engineering and Operations Department once the trench is dug and conduit is installed.
  • The Trench can be back-filled after the conduit and the Trench have been inspected.
  • It is not possible to install the conductor until the trench has been backfilled.

Note that no primary or secondary electric lines may be installed beneath a concrete foundation or slab.

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.

What is the depth at which high-pressure gas lines are buried?

Open trenches have been used to install pipelines in the past, and this is still the most frequent approach for collection and transmission lines. Trenchless procedures such as boring and horizontal directional drilling (HDD) are increasingly likely to be used to lay distribution lines because they cause less environmental disruption. Boring is especially frequent for distribution pipelines in metropolitan areas because it allows them to cross highways.

Trenchless procedures, which utilize boring and drilling rather than open digging, have a higher risk of destroying existing utilities. Metal lines are reasonably easy to identify with metal detecting equipment, however sewer lines composed of clay and plastic require less dependable ultrasonic technology to be discovered. Furthermore, damaged sewer lines may go unnoticed until a clogged sewer is discovered. The most dangerous aspect of a cross bore is that plumbers frequently use a powered auger to clean a clogged sewer line, which can cause a gas line to burst.

All transmission lines and some gathering lines must be buried at least 30 inches underground in rural regions and at least 36 inches underground in populated areas, according to federal regulations. These wires must also be buried at least 36 inches deep under roads and railway crossings. Depending on the soil or rock type, the minimum depth for water crossings might range from 18 to 48 inches. Distribution lines must be buried a minimum of 24 inches deep, though this is decreased to 18 inches along roadways and 12 inches on private property. These minimum depths are only necessary at the time of installation and do not have to be maintained throughout time.

What is the depth at which oil pipes are buried?

Steel or plastic tubes with an inner diameter of 4 to 48 inches are used to construct oil pipelines (100 to 1,220 mm). The majority of pipelines are buried at a depth of 3 to 6 feet (0.91 to 1.83 m). A multitude of technologies are used to protect pipelines from impact, abrasion, and corrosion. Wood lagging (wood slats), concrete coating, rockshield, high-density polyethylene, imported sand padding, sacrificial cathodes, and padding machines are examples of these materials.

Crude oil contains different levels of paraffin wax, and wax buildup in a pipeline can occur in colder locations. Pigging, or the process of deploying machines known as “pigs” to undertake various maintenance activities on a pipeline, is frequently used to check and clean these pipelines. “Scrapers” or “Go-devils” are other names for the gadgets. Smart pigs (sometimes called “intelligent” or “intelligence” pigs) are used to detect anomalies in pipes such as dents, metal loss due to corrosion, cracking, or other mechanical defects. These devices are launched from pig-launcher stations and travel through the pipeline, either removing wax deposits and particles that may have collected inside the line or inspecting and recording the line’s condition.

Pipelines for natural gas are made of carbon steel and range in diameter from 2 to 60 inches (51 to 1,524 mm) depending on the type of pipeline. Compressor stations pressurize the gas, which is odorless unless a regulatory authority requires it to be blended with a mercaptan odorant.

What is the depth of electrical trenches?

Bury in the Ground: Dig a 24 inch hole in the ground. There is one stipulation: the cable must be exposed on the outside of the home and 18 inches below the ground level. Because burying the cable 24 inches involves additional digging, this method is only practical if the soil is easy to dig or if you rent a trench digger.

What are the depths at which certain utilities can be found?

The following are some examples of typical depths where specific lines can be found:

  • 1 foot or less in conduit for cable or telephone lines
  • Electricity, sewage, and telephone lines are not in conduit at a depth of 2 feet.
  • 3 feet of additional electrical, water, and sewage lines
  • Any lines of depthgas (Gas lines do not have a standard depth)

Is it possible to have both water and electricity in the same trench?

If you’re thinking about digging your own utility trenches, there are a few things to consider. Even while this is a fantastic approach to save money while getting your project started, it is critical that you do so securely. As a result, you’ll need the appropriate tools, equipment, and knowledge of local legislation. Keep in mind that codes differ from state to state, so you should check with your local city council or a utility company before getting started.

Is it possible to run electrical and plumbing lines in the same trench? Yes, you can; however, you must do so appropriately. Otherwise, you risk a few code infractions as well as posing a serious safety hazard. Because of the risks involved with this task, you should always seek the advice of a professional if you have any concerns.