Home improvement project? Call 811 before you dig

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(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Spring is a popular time for home improvement and landscaping projects, and Xcel Energy and Colorado Springs Utilities (Springs Utilities) want to remind people to always call 8-1-1 before digging.

Xcel Energy said digging without locating utility lines causes injuries, loss of life, and property damage every year, and can lead to outages and fines. In 2023, Xcel Energy had 335 incidents in Colorado when customers did not call 8-1-1 and then caused damage to buried gas or electric lines.

Here are some safe digging tips from Xcel Energy to consider before you begin your project:

  • Always call 811 before you dig. It’s the law.
  • Depth can be deceptive. Depth of utility lines can change over time with erosion, storms, floods, soil conditions, heaving in winter from frost, and changes to landscaping.
  • What you don’t know can hurt you. Even if you’ve lived in your home for 30 years, things can and do change in your yard.
  • Does it smell like rotten eggs? If you damage a natural gas line and notice a sulfur or rotten egg-like smell, move quickly away from the area. Once safely away, call 911 first, then your gas utility company to investigate and repair.
  • Hand digging. Before you can work near an underground utility line, you must first hand-dig to expose the line and verify its location and depth.

“Businesses and homeowners digging without locates presents the industry’s greatest risk to customer and public safety,” said Lauren Gilliland, Xcel Energy vice president. “Historically, nearly 25% of the damages that occur to gas pipelines are a result of businesses and homeowners not calling for locates. Only you can prevent the next pipeline or electrical line contact.”

According to the Springs Utilities website, the City of Colorado Springs requires excavators to pre-mark the specific areas of excavation using white paint, flags, or stakes. Or, excavators can provide electronic delineation of the specific area of excavation when requesting a ticket through Colorado 811. If you have questions regarding this process, you may contact Todd Griffeth with Colorado 811 at (720)705-7983.

From the Springs Utilities website, here is what to do if you accidentally damage a line:

  1. Stop work immediately. Don’t attempt to shut off service or repair, clamp, or bury the damaged line.
  2. Warn others around you and leave the area immediately if you know you’ve hit a natural gas line or think you may have hit one. Natural gas is extremely dangerous and flammable when it leaks and a line is exposed.
  3. If an injury has occurred, call 911.
  4. If you damage a natural gas line and gas is blowing, you MUST call 911.
  5. Call Spring’s Utilities at (719) 448-4800 to inform them of the damage, and we will dispatch the proper crew to make repairs.
  6. Call 811 to inform the Colorado One Call center of the damage – have your original locate request ticket number available.
  7. Wait for proper crews to make repairs. They will inform you when it’s safe to continue your project.

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