With recent storms, many Californians will be conducting projects like fence repair or downed tree removal
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — As Spring weather arrives, many Californians will begin projects around the home that involve digging. Whether it’s planting a tree or shrub, gardening or landscaping, repairing or replacing a fence that was damaged during the recent series of storms or removing downed trees, PG&E wants everyone to be safe and urges customers to call 811 before digging to avoid damaging underground utility lines. April is National Safe Digging Month, and an opportunity to raise awareness of this important, free service.
Underground utility lines can be shallow, sometimes only a few inches below the surface, due to erosion, previous digging projects, shifting or settling of the ground and uneven surfaces. And damaging an underground utility line while digging can be expensive, with repairs averaging $3,500. A call to 811 is the best safeguard and the first line of defense to help keep your family and neighbors safe, and to avoid expensive repairs.
“Calling 811 is free, easy and fast, and will help you keep your family and neighbors safe and connected to essential utility services. With the stormy weather we’ve experienced in Central and Northern California this year, many people will be doing fence repair projects or removing downed trees. But, striking an underground utility line while digging can be dangerous and lead to expensive repairs, so please remember to call 811, one free call for all digging projects, large or small,” said Joe Forline, PG&E senior vice president, gas operations.
Warmer weather months see an increase in digging projects, and unfortunately many of those projects are proceeding without a free call to 811 to have underground utilities marked for project sites. In fact, in 2022 throughout PG&E’s service area of Northern and Central California:
- There were 1,635 incidents where homeowners or contractors damaged underground gas or electric lines while digging.
- In 55 percent of incidents when an underground utility line was damaged due to digging, 811 was not called.
- For homeowners specifically, that percentage rises to 91 percent.
- The average cost to repair a damaged utility line is $3,500.
- Leading causes of damages to underground utility lines while digging include: building or replacing a fence, gardening and landscaping, planting a tree or removing a stump, sewer and irrigation work and building a deck or patio.
Calling 811 is Fast and Free:
- Customers should call 811 a minimum of two business days before beginning any project that involves digging, no matter how large or small. Customers can also visit usanorth811.org to have underground utility lines marked for their project site.
- Professional utility workers for all utilities (gas, electric, water, sewer and telecommunications) will be dispatched to mark the location of all underground utility lines for the project site with flags, spray paint, or both.
- The 811 call center serving Central and Northern California, USA North, is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and will provide Spanish and other translation services.
PG&E safe digging tips
- Mark project area in white: Identify the digging location by drawing a box around the area using white paint, white stakes, white flags, white chalk or even white baking flour.
- Call 811 or submit an online request a minimum of two working days before digging: Be prepared to provide the address and general location of the project, project start date and type of digging activity. PG&E and other utilities will identify underground facilities in the area for free. Requests can be submitted a maximum of 14 days prior to the start of the project.
- Dig safely: Use hand tools when digging within 24 inches of the outside edge of underground lines. Leave utility flags, stakes or paint marks in place until the project is finished. Backfill and compact the soil.
- Be aware of signs of a natural gas leak: Smell for a “rotten egg” odor, listen for hissing, whistling or roaring sounds and look for dirt spraying into the air, bubbling in a pond or creek and dead/dying vegetation in an otherwise moist area.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is a combined natural gas and electric utility serving more than 16 million people across 70,000 square miles in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit pge.com and pge.com/news.