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PG&E Raises Awareness of Safe Digging Practices to Help Prevent Damage to Underground Utility Lines

Release Date: March 31, 2010
Contact: PG&E External Communications (415) 973-5930

During National Safe Digging Month in April, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) reminds customers to always call 811 before any excavation project, big or small. Whether it’s planting a tree, installing a sprinkler system or building a fence, homeowners and professional excavators need to know where gas and electric lines lie underground.

The 811 hotline is a free service that provides important information on where utilities exist beneath excavation areas. Natural gas pipelines, electric power lines and other utilities buried underground can lie within just a few feet of the surface. These lines can easily be damaged, even during shallow digging projects. Accidental contact with these lines can be dangerous, with the potential to cause serious injury, property damage and outages.

Calling 811 puts customers in direct contact with Underground Service Alert (USA), a free utility notification service for anyone who plans any type of excavation project. USA notifies local utility companies to go out and mark the approximate location of their underground facilities in and around the excavation site. When underground lines are marked, customers can avoid them and prevent serious accidents from occurring. Customers can call USA from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, except for holidays. California law requires customers to notify utilities at least two working days before digging.

PG&E offers these tips for a safe excavation:

  • Call 811 at least 2 working days before and up to 14 days in advance of an excavation.
  • Customers will receive a list of notified utilities that may have underground lines in the area. If you believe a utility may not have marked their lines, call 811 again to notify USA.
  • On paved surfaces, mark the proposed excavation area with white chalk-based paint. Homeowners can also use other white substances such as sugar or flour.
  • On unpaved surfaces use flags or stakes to mark the proposed excavation area.
  • Carefully hand excavate within 24 inches on either side of a utility-marked facility.
  • Be careful not to erase facility marks while working. If you cannot see the markings, call 811 and request a remarking.
  • 811 requests are active for 28 days. Notify USA if work continues beyond that time.
  • Immediately notify utilities about any type of contact or damage to its wires or pipes.
  • If there is any type of damage to PG&E electric wires or gas pipelines, or if there is a possible gas leak, take these steps:
    • Move to a safe location
    • Call 911
    • Call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000

Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to 15 million people in northern and central California. For more information, visit www.pge.com/about.

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