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Celebrating 811 Day: Companies urge consumers to call before they dig
Thousands of miles of utility lines crisscross Texas, creating a potential hazard any time someone digs holes for new fence posts or plants a tree.
The consequences of striking an underground utility line can range from minor to catastrophic, depending on what type of line is damaged. To ensure all lines are correctly marked, Texas utility line operators are banding together to promote a free line-locating system that can be accessed by dialing 811.
"Statistics have shown that an underground utility line is damaged every three minutes in the United States, so that is a major problem," said Jennifer Ryan, Atmos Energy spokeswoman. "That is why all of these pipeline companies have come together this year and asked what they could do to increase awareness and let everyone know about this free service."
Texas 811 is a nonprofit organization funded by more than 1,500 utility line companies throughout the state, said Texas 811 President Lee Marrs. To help generate awareness for the national 811 service, which was began in 2005, Texas companies have joined together in celebrating National 811 Day, held Saturday, Aug. 11.
Anyone who will be digging is asked to call 811 at least two working days prior to digging. Once a call is received, the staff at Texas 811 will contact the utility providers in the area, who send out specialists to mark the lines with either flags or color-coded spray paint.
While the dangers of hitting a natural gas line are apparent, Marrs said other types of lines could be just as detrimental.
"If a gas pipeline gets hit, it can be a very serious problem very quickly," Marrs said. "However, electrical lines can provide the same sort of thing and with fiber optic cables, you don't know what is running on that. Fiber optic lines could contain air traffic control signals or the 911 system, or even the control lines that manage the gas pipeline, which could prevent the pipeline from being shut down if it is damaged."
While it is obvious that major projects such as building a new deck could potentially damage utility lines, it is important to use the 811 service for even minor projects such as installing a new mailbox, Ryan said.
For information, visit www.texas811.org.
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