Call Before You Dig - it's the law
Be on the safe side - call before you dig in an area where underground utilities might be present. It's the law just about everywhere, and it's designed to keep you out of trouble and save the utility company some grief.
I can't think of a state that doesn't have a program whereby you call a processing center and they dispatch someone to locate underground utilities in the general area that you wish to dig.
The idea behind the program is to be safe rather than sorry.
Not too long ago, a bulldozer operator was ripping up the ground near a large underground gas supply line on the Colorado and Wyoming border. He ripped through the supply line and in just a couple of seconds he and his bulldozer were history. By the time he knew what had happened, it was all over for him.
Smoke from the high pressure gas fed fire could be seen for 50 miles or more.
Accidents like this are avoidable. You would think that the underground line would be marked. I'm certain it was marked in some fashion, but it's also the responsibility of the excavator to call to find out exactly where the lines are buried and to have them remarked as necessary.
Residential Utility Lines
In residential areas, lines near the house aren't marked, and sometimes they aren't far underground either. Distances underground vary greatly, but in general, gas and electric lines are 2 or 3 feet deep, phone lines are maybe 1 foot deep, and cable TV lines might only be 6 inches beneath the surface.
Water and sewer lines are usually 2 feet or more beneath the surface, depending on the climate - the colder, the deeper they're buried so they don't freeze in the winter.
Reasons for Calling
Your personal safety with gas and electricity is one reason to call before you dig. The other reason is cost. Your homeowners insurance may cover the cost of you damaging utilities, but I'll bet there is a stipulation in your policy that says you have to follow the law and make use of "call before you dig" programs.
If that's the case, you're on the hook for all the repair costs, and in some cases, loss of the commodity provided.
Regardless of who will pay for the damage and lost commodity, it's a pain in the rear to deal with any of this stuff and it's completely unnecessary. All you have to do is call before you dig.
One call avoids the possibility of damaging a line because you don't know it's there, and it avoids all the legal and financial ramifications as well.
It's Quick and Free
Usually the individuals who locate underground utilities can find the lines and mark them within a couple of days, so it isn't a big delay factor. If you're planning what you're building, then just allow for a few days to have the underground utilities located for you.
If you don't start the project, you can always have them come out again and locate underground utilities when you're ready to start it again. Just call before you excavate.
That means call before you dig, drill, plow, till or trench.
All my experience shows that there is no charge for the service. It's usually a state funded program designed to prevent unnecessary expense and service interruption, not collect revenue.
When you're in court trying to fight a case against you for damaging the underground utilities, it's always nice to be able to show that you did everything reasonable to know where they were located - so call first.
Done with Call Before You Dig, take me back to Do It Yourself