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Ask the Contractor: Use the 811 system to avoid problems when digging

At least three to four times a month I receive calls from homeowners asking for the number to verify utility lines on their property. Here is a “refresher” column on the process in Arizona called “Arizona 811.”

Arizona 811 is the entity that marks underground utility lines. If you plan to excavate either on private or public property, you must call Arizona 811 at least two full working days prior to digging — 10 working days for work being done in apartment communities or mobile home parks — excluding Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays.

“Yes” is the main answer that I have given out most to this question: Are all homeowners required to notify Arizona 811 in advance of their excavation projects? Even shallow-depth projects have a possibility of coming into contact with telecommunication, electric or gas distribution lines.

You contact Arizona 811 by simply dialing 811.

The process is free and can even be completed online by utilizing the e-Stake system.

If you have a subcontractor doing the work for you on your property, make sure they have contacted Arizona 811 before they begin any excavation work.

Once Arizona 811 has been notified of your project, the facility owners/operators in your area will either mark their facilities or indicate a status of “no conflict.” When you contact Arizona 811, provide your e-mail address to receive positive responses — which will be no conflict, marked completely, no access, etc. — from all of the affected facility owners/operators.

All member underground facility operators that have underground facilities on the site of the planned excavation must respond within two full working days following the day of your notification.

Due to the number of underground facility operators marking the same type of facility using the same color code, many underground facility operators will initial their locate markings for clarity. The color codes are designated by the Arizona Corporation Commission and are restricted for the use in marking underground facilities.

Electric power distribution and transmission: Safety Red.

Gas distribution and transmission; oil product distribution and transmission; dangerous materials, product lines: High Visibility Safety Yellow

Telephone and telegraph systems; cable television: Safety Alert Orange

Fiber optics communication lines: The letter “F” in Safety Alert Orange

Water systems: Safety Precaution Blue

Sanitary sewer systems: Safety Green

Reclaimed water: Purple

Land surveyor markings: Florescent

Once you have contacted Arizona 811, you will receive a copy of the ticket being distributed to the utility companies that may have conflict with your excavation. This ticket will let you know who has been notified, and the facility owner/operator will respond to your request.

Once all utilities have responded you are able to begin your excavation. You must conduct your excavation in a “careful and prudent manner.” The law defines “careful and prudent manner” as: Conducting an excavation in such a way that when the excavation is less than or equal to 24 inches from an underground facility that is marked with stakes or paint or in some customary manner, the facility is carefully exposed with hand tools, and the uncovered facility is supported and protected.

Arizona 811 is a nonprofit communication center that performs excavation notification services, which are designed to provide for public safety and underground facility damage prevention in accordance with statutory requirements. Arizona 811 sets the standard as the premier communication center in the damage prevention industry. Its success is demonstrated by quality of service, facilitating timely and accurate 360-degree communication and cost effectiveness in the facility location notification process.

It is important to know that if excavation is taking place at your home or on private property, it might be necessary to have some underground facilities located and marked by a private locating company. This has been an issue on two excavating projects recently. The property owner was not aware that he had to call for a private utility locate, and the contractor “assumed” that the owner knew what to do – a water line was cut because the line on private property was not marked. The second case was the same, and this involved an electrical line.

Utility companies and local governments mark only what they own and operate up to their point of sale, which is typically to the meter. Utility companies and other utility service providers will not mark private lines. If any excavation is being down past the meter and onto private property, a private locating company must be called to make the lines.

What are private lines? The most common examples of private lines include (but are not limited to) the service lines from the water meter and sewer main up to the house or building; a sprinkler system; a water line that services a pool; a gas line that extends to a bar-b-que. Fees for private locating companies are determined by the companies that provide these services.

There are homeowners and even some professional excavators who make risky assumptions about whether they need to have utility lines marked. Don’t risk it! It’s the law and it is crucial to preventing serious injuries and damage. Protect yourself and your family.

By the way, digging is just one of the many activities that requires you to contact Arizona 811 first. By law, you must contact Arizona 811 before “any operation in which earth, rock, or other material in the ground is moved, removed or otherwise displaced by means or use of any tools, equipment or explosives and includes, without limitation, grading, trenching, digging, ditching, drilling, auguring, boring, tunneling, scraping, cable or pipe plowing and driving.”

Remember to tune in to YCCA’s Hammer Time at 7 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday on KQNA 1130 AM/99.9 FM/95.5 FM or the web at kqna.com. Join my wingman Mike Enders of Benttree Custom homes and myself. We talk with and interview community industry partners, local businesses and so much more. It’s fun — don’t miss us! It is a great way to start your morning.

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