Article by: Wallace Jones
Don’t look now, but Spring is quickly creeping up on us! And what comes to mind when we think of spring? We want to plant those beautiful flowers, shrubs, and trees around our house to help beautify our landscape. So, we just go out and start digging. Right? Wrong!
The first thing we do is make a phone call to the Alabama 811 office and request a locate ticket to have all the underground utilities located on our property. Since the Alabama Legislature amended the state’s damage prevention law in 2019, all utilities must now belong to a one-call center. In Alabama that is the Alabama 811 Center (www.811.com). You can either dial 811 and give the customer service representative the necessary information (address, contact phone number, closest intersecting street, what type of work will be done, etc.) or go to the website and enter the locate request yourself. After 48 hours, beginning with the next business day, the utilities should arrive and locate the underground utilities in your work zone so you can know what is buried and what you need to be aware of. They will locate any underground utilities from the main line (gas main, electric cable, TV/Telephone cable, water main) to the meter serving your location. (Sorry, but that does not include most of your water lines. The lines from your meter to your house are your property, not the utility’s so that part will not be marked. And neither will any lines coming off your meter to other areas of the property, such as a gas line to a grill or gas light, an electric cable from the meter to another building on the property.)
What about the lines they do mark? There is an area called a “tolerance zone” that extends 18” either side of the marks/flags that are put down to locate the utility. You are not allowed to use any mechanized equipment within that zone. All digging in that area must be by hand. And you must use every precaution to avoid damage. Don’t take a pickaxe and swing it as hard as you can into the ground. Use a shovel and gently excavate within the zone until you have located the utility and can determine its depth. If you do damage any facility, immediately call 811 and let them know about the damage, and if you know which utility it is, call them to report the damage also.
The main thing about calling 811 to have the lines on your property located is safety. You do not want to have a broken gas line or water line spewing its product all over your property. And you certainly don’t want the “shocking” result of cutting into an electrical cable. So be safe; call 811 and have the lines located. You might even decide that the bush would look better on the other side of the yard.