Railroad Commission of Texas Reminds Texans to Call 811 Before Digging

AUSTIN, January 24, 2015 - The Railroad Commission of Texas is reminding Texans that state law requires all excavators, contractors and homeowners to call 811 to have underground pipelines located and marked before they begin digging projects. Knowing where underground utility lines, including pipelines, are buried before digging helps prevent injuries, pipeline damage, service outages, fines and costly repairs.

With more than 425,000 miles of pipeline, Texas has the largest pipeline infrastructure in the nation. When calling 811, excavators, homeowners and contractors are connected to one of the two state One-Call Centers operating in Texas. Underground facility operators are notified, including companies operating pipelines. Then locator personnel are sent to a digging site to mark the locations of underground pipelines and utilities with flags, spray paint or both.

The primary cause of pipeline incidents in Texas comes from digging or excavation, and in 31 percent of those incidents, 811 was not called or notified. Striking a pipeline can result in repair costs, fines, service outages and possibly even injury or death. In Texas, not calling 811 before digging or incorrectly marking a pipeline location can result in fines of up to $200,000 per day per violation.

Excavators are required to notify pipeline operators of any pipeline damage no later than two hours following the damage incident by placing a call to 811. Additionally, excavators are required by law to submit a report of the damage to the Railroad Commission within 10 days of the incident. Pipeline operators are also required to report pipeline damage caused by an excavator within 10 days of the damage incident or the operator’s actual knowledge of the incident.

Anyone, including homeowners, digging deeper than 16 inches into the earth is required to make the free 811 call at least two business days before digging. The depth of pipelines can vary due to a number of factors including erosion and uneven surfaces. For this reason, the Commission encourages calling 811 before beginning any digging project.

The Commission strives to make all Texans aware of the infrastructure underground that supports our state’s energy needs and to call 811 before digging to reduce the risk of striking an underground pipeline. In 2014, Commission staff participated in more than 20 educational events statewide to increase awareness of the national "Call 811" campaign. Looking ahead to 2015, the Commission will continue to work with the 23 statewide Damage Prevention Councils, two One-Call Centers and other stakeholders to increase awareness of the importance of calling 811.

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