Any time that you are doing any digging or excavating, it is VITAL to call the Underground Service Alert (USA) hotline at 811 so that any buried utilities can be properly marked.
Digging around unknown buried utilities can be very DANGEROUS and very EXPENSIVE. You are legally required to call 811 before you dig.
What counts as digging? It might be more than you think!
According to California Law, “Excavation” means any operation in which earth, rock, or other material in the ground is moved, removed, or otherwise displaced by means of tools, equipment, or explosives in any of the following ways: grading, trenching, digging, ditching, drilling, auguring, tunneling, scraping, cable or pipe plowing, and driving, or any other way. (Gov Code Title 1 Division 5 Chapter 3.1 Article 2)
EXAMPLES - fence posts, planting trees/bushes, regarding front or back yards, footings for sheds or outbuildings, pools, installing drains, landscape irrigation piping, removing a tree stump, etc.
Steps for Safe Digging
1. Mark out the area where you will dig in WHITE spray paint or flags.
Use brackets to mark off the entire area where you might be digging and include a few feet extra (better safe than sorry). Write your name or company initials next to the brackets. Use white flags if the paint is difficult to see in the weeds or tall grass. Be sure that the marks are clearly visible from the road.
2. Call 811 or go to www.digalert.org at least 2 business days before you plan to dig.
You will be guided through the process of making a USA ticket that will be sent to all the utilities in the area you will be digging. Calling 811 and making a ticket is completely FREE and can save you a ton of expense.
3. Wait at least 2 business days (or until your stated start time on your ticket) for utility members to mark their underground pipes and facilities.
Although it is hard, you need to wait at least 2 business days for all the utility providers on your ticket to come out and locate their underground facilities. This does NOT include the day you called 811.
4. Verify that all utilities on your ticket have responded to your locate request.
State law requires that you get a response from each one before you start digging. If you have not gotten confirmation from a utility through the Positive Response program, then you need to call 811 and tell them you have no response from them. 811 will then give you the contact information for that utility. NEVER assume that no marks means you are clear to dig.
5. Respect utility marks & dig with care around buried lines.
Where a utility is marked, the area 2 feet on either side of the outer edge of the line described must be hand dug (or possibly vacuum excavated) until the line is found. For example, if the marks describe a 12" water main with a single line in the middle of it, you must hand dig 2.5 feet on either side (0.5' from line to 12" pipe edge, then 2' beyond that). Excavators, augers, jackhammers, graders, or other mechanical excavation is not allowed until the line is located.
If any line is even slightly damaged, immediately contact 811 and report the damaged line. The proper utility and trained personnel will respond to inspect or repair their line. NEVER attempt to make the repair yourself as it can be VERY DANGEROUS!