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Another Voice: Call before digging to head off expensive problems

By Neil Cooney

Spring will soon be in the air and so will the thought of home projects.

Last year the governor proclaimed every April as Safe Digging Month in New York as a way to remind everyone that state law requires them to call the toll-free number before starting any excavation or digging project.

If you’re a homeowner, odds are you’ve taken on a do-it-yourself project like installing a mailbox, planting a tree or putting in a deck.

According to a report by the national organization Common Ground Alliance, half of Americans are “active diggers” – meaning they have done, or are planning to do, some type of digging project at home. However, only a third call to get utility lines marked prior to excavating.

Why is this a problem? An underground utility line is damaged during digging projects once every three minutes in the United States. Hitting a pipeline or underground utility may mean expensive fines and repair costs and could also cause harm to you or others nearby.

In addition to pipelines, “underground utilities” refers to the electricity that powers your home and provides your household with internet, cable TV, natural gas to heat your home and power gas appliances and water and sewer lines.

Even if you think you know where all of these lines are located, digging without first having underground utilities marked is a risk that’s not worth taking.

The good news? The solution is as simple as dialing three digits – 811.

Research by Common Ground Alliance shows that calling 811 prior to digging reduces the risk of damaging underground utilities to less than 1 percent.

Whether you are a completing a project in your own yard or excavate for a living, the “National Call Before You Dig” telephone number applies to you. One free, simple phone call to 811 makes it easy for the local one-call center to notify all appropriate utility companies of your intent to dig.

April is National Safe Digging Month and serves as an essential reminder of the importance of calling 811 before every digging project. Your local utilities are actively involved in ongoing industry efforts to educate the public on safe digging.

As a pipeline operator in your area, Enbridge relies on those of you who live near our pipelines to dig safely and share the safe digging message with others.

I encourage you to visit or for more information about safe digging.

Always call before you dig. The safety of your family, friends and neighbors may depend on it.

Neil Cooney has lived in Western New York for more than 50 years and manages the operations of Enbridge pipelines in New York State.

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