Officials say flood recovery efforts highlight importance of always calling 811 before digging

A backhoe used to clear debris from a flooded street in Enoch, Utah, for illustrative purposes only, Aug. 2, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

ENOCH — As many Southern Utah residents continue to recover from recent flooding, officials are issuing a safety reminder to “call before you dig” – something that they say applies to any residential digging.

Players and coaches on Canyon View High football team help repair a ditch, Enoch, Utah, Aug. 2, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Dominion Energy spokesman Don Porter told Cedar City News that anyone wanting to dig into the ground needs to call 811 first, so that the utility lines can be properly marked by a Blue Stakes of Utah technician.

“Calling 811 is the law,” he said.

“If anybody’s planning any projects at all … I mean, obviously, after this flooding, an awful situation, I understand that everybody wants and needs to get stuff done quickly,” Porter added. “But they’ve got to call 811. And preferably, they’ve got to give one to two business days before those shovels hit the ground.”

Porter said that he understands in the case of the recent flooding that time may be a little bit more of the essence.

“But they still need to wait until it’s marked, because their customers could be responsible for the cost to repair the lines,” he said. “But more important than that, it’s a safety issue. They need to protect themselves and their neighbors. You don’t want that natural gas escaping.”

Although natural gas or methane is actually odorless, it contains an additive that makes it readily recognizable to people’s sense of smell.

It’s also lighter than air, Porter said.

“If a line were to break out in the open, the gas just rises and dissipates into the atmosphere,” he said. “But if you’ve got an ignition source around, and you’ve got a mixture of the natural gas and the surrounding air between 5% and 15%, it can be flammable. You definitely don’t want a situation where something like that could happen.”

Porter also talked of the safety precautions that should be taken after natural gas and other utility lines have been properly marked.

“Once they’re marked, then they need to dig at least 2 feet from the lines on both sides of the mark,” he said. “They should never dig on the line. If you’ve got to dig within those 2 feet, you should use small hand tools only.”

Porter also said if anyone smells natural gas inside or outside a building, or for some reason thinks they may have accidentally struck a natural gas line, no matter how incidental or minor it may seem, they should immediately leave the area and call 911 from a safe distance away. They should also immediately call Dominion Energy’s emergency hotline at 1-800-767-1689.

Porter said people not calling 811 before they dig has been a problem for some time, particularly in Southern Utah.

In this 2018 file photo. firefighters with the St. George Fire Department stand by in the area of 1960 East and 2630 S. Circle as a precaution in case a gas leak being tended to by a Dominion Energy crew ignited. At least three homes were evacuated the incident, St. George, Utah, June 25, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“This predates the flooding,” he said. “People just really need to remember to call 811 before doing any digging or before doing anything in the ground.”

“Your safety comes first,” he added.

Porter also offered a recommendation for those who may need help restarting their furnace or water heater after a flood or similar situation.

“If your furnace room has been flooded, and you don’t know what you’re doing, you should call a licensed contractor to come help you get everything turned back on.  You should definitely call a professional to come do that work for you.”

For more information about Blue Stakes of Utah, visit the organization’s website.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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