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Guest columnist: Calling 811 before digging is easy; do it

By Victor Gaglio

Along with college basketball mania and mother nature’s first blush of color, this time of year brings another sign that spring is upon us — people start digging everywhere.

Utilities, homeowners, builders and others soon will break ground on any number of different projects, and there’s one question we should all be asking them — Did you call 811 before you began to dig?

Most damage to underground utility lines is caused when people dig without knowing what’s below. Digging into a natural gas pipeline or any underground utility can be dangerous. Digging accidents are completely unnecessary and incredibly easy to avoid – simply by calling 811 to have underground utility lines marked before you dig, a free service.

It really is that easy. So why don’t more people call 811 and why do so many people keep hitting underground utility lines, including natural gas pipelines?

It could be lack of awareness, apathy or impatience. Whatever the reason, Piedmont Natural Gas does want to help you avoid potentially dangerous situations. People who hit underground utility lines can cause personal injury, initiate evacuations, release emissions, cause road closures that snarl traffic for hours and needlessly tie up fire and police personnel. People can also can expose themselves or their company to significant repair costs.

As a natural gas utility, Piedmont Natural Gas considers pipeline safety our No. 1 priority, and we take it seriously. We inspect portions of our 25,000-mile pipeline system in the Carolinas and Tennessee each year using state-of-the-art technology; we perform extensive leak detection surveys, complete important maintenance work on existing pipelines and replace aging pipelines — all to keep our distribution system safe and operating at its best.

But our efforts alone are not enough.

The reality is that people keep damaging our lines almost every day — despite advertising, sending special annual mailers and meeting with numerous contractors and excavators to educate as many people as possible about the importance of calling 811 before they dig. Last year alone, nearly 10,000 separate incidents of damage to underground utilities were reported in North Carolina.

This is why we’re asking you to join us in holding each other accountable to keep our communities safe. When you see your neighbor, an excavator, a construction crew or anyone else digging in your area, don’t be afraid to stop and ask, “Did you call 811? “

Learn more about calling 811 at piedmontng.com/call811.

Gaglio is a senior vice president of utility operations at Piedmont Natural Gas.

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