Checking for gas lines often ignored

LIMA — It’s a free service that’s relatively quick and completely painless.

It’s a state law. And it’s often ignored.

Ohio 811 — formerly known as the Ohio Utilities Protection Service, is the statewide program and more commonly known as “call before you dig” — links homeowners and contractors with all utility service providers in all areas of the state.

Under Ohio law, homeowners and excavators must call 8-1-1 at least two business days (but not more than 10 working days, excluding weekends and legal holidays) to have underground utility lines marked prior to beginning any project that requires digging.

Calling 8-1-1 connects the public and contractors to Ohio811, which notifies the appropriate utility companies of their intent to dig. Professional locators are then sent to the requested digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines and facilities with flags, spray paint or both. The service is free.

But according to Peggy Ehora, external affairs manager for Dominion Energy’s Lima office, the Lima region presents one of the biggest problem areas for her company throughout the state. And as the digging season hits full stride, the number of accidental “hits” of utility lines already has started to mount.

“For whatever the reason, our company sees the greatest number of incidents in the Lima and Akron areas,” said Ehora. “I like to think it’s just because of the sheer amount of activity in those areas, but we can’t be sure.”

The Dominion Energy spokeswoman offered a pair of recent examples where damage was caused when 8-1-1 procedures broke down.

“Just last week, we had a homeowner move the (utility designation) flags in his yard to mow and he didn’t put them back, said Ehora. “He mowed the paint off the grass and the excavator assumed there wasn’t anything there because there were no markings … and then he hit a (utility) line. Not calling before you dig is a real problem in and around Lima and it applies to all utilities.”

Another example of unintended consequences popped up last week near Celina. “A man was pulling bushes out in front of his house, and the roots had wrapped around a utility line,” said Ehora. “We’ve all done tasks like that around the home, but you just have to ask yourself if maybe it would be best to call 8-1-1 first.”

While safety concerns are first and foremost when it comes to utility lines, Ehora said there are also financial considerations that come into play. “Like the man in Columbus who was putting in a mailbox and hit a fiber optic line … and got a bill for $1 million. The homeowner bears financial responsibility in cases like that,” she said.

Even simple yard tasks like planting flowers could warrant an 8-1-1 call. “Some stuff (utility lines) are really, really shallow,” said Ehora. “The bottom line is that if you’re not sure, you need to call. When in doubt, make the call.”

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It’s more than just a slogan; dialing 8-1-1 could save you money

By J Swygart

[email protected]

Reach J Swygart at 567-242-0464.