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Old 05-06-2004, 09:39 PM
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fear factor

Over the last few years, I have been developing a great fear of digging into homeowners ground.

Its almost......well, actually, its too the point, that my fear is beginning to cost me money.

My fear is underground utilities.

I do call for markouts, but this still does not ease my worries.

I am too the point where it is bothers me the night before I do a job because I know I will have to be digging around underground lines.

Lately, it seems no one buries anything to code. gas lines, electric, cable, phone........they all seem to be at fault.

And the fill dirt used around utilities is just rediculous........sure, they buried it to the proper depth, and used sand, and have a ribbon in the hole...........BUT........they they back fill with huge 2-3' boulders that you have to pull out with a machine and in the process, dig up a 'hidden' surprise as you can't see what is beneath.

Am I just being paranoid, or does this seem to be a increasing concern for others. It even seems risky to hand dig with the way these things are installed.

Not for nothing, but calling in all the utility companies for a 3k walkway seems a little overkill...........but it almost seems necessary anymore.
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Old 05-06-2004, 09:50 PM
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Penn:

We call in every time we put a shovel in the ground, no matter what. the rule through Dig alert was the same for J.U.L.I.E. in residential digs. If you call, they mark and you hit a line, it is fixed free. There is every incentive to call. In Ca, we have it good. All utilities come in off the left or right front in different trenches. All are buried 18" deep.

The worst offenders of shallow buried utilities are the cable guys. Lift sod, throw under sod...Buried cable...$40,000 vibratory plow sitting on trailer never starts all day. Go figure!
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Old 05-06-2004, 10:22 PM
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Penn,

The closest I came to something very bad happening was a couple years ago when digging for a SRW on new construction with A LOT of ledge. The good news, the main electrical service was in a pipe and it did have tape about 2" above. Bad news, I hit the pipe about six inches below grade, with my backhoe, to discover it.

I hear ya.
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Old 05-06-2004, 11:40 PM
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You going to let a little buried cable worry you?
I call every job site in 5 days before digging. I request they fax me all clears. The dig number goes on every job folder. I carry only one color of paint on our trucks, White. All dig areas are marked out before the call. If possible we hand dig to locate any buried cable or pipe. We take a picture of each site before we dig along with the date. We also take a picture of any services we dig around.

Have we hit things, sure, our fault just once. Missed marked lots of times. It's going to happen. Be glad you never have hit a high pressure gas line that was located IN a side walk that was being torn up. That one was real fun, it was at a park, between a condo unit, we had 15 fire trucks respond to that one. The Village wanted to know why we hit the line said they were going to charge us for the response. we delivered them the pipe in the concrete sidewalk........... Or the time we hand dug the electric service only to find they had abandoned the one marked, we hit the real one 5 feet away, knocked out the service to 5 homes. We one time installed a drainage system around a library, it had 4- 8' deep manhole with 12" SDR 17 connections. the drainage system ran along the electric feed to the building. each wire was tied with plastic rope and staked to hold it up so we could dig along side of it to get the pipe in the ground. That made for some long days.

Don't let it worry you, yes you will run into problems but none are a real problem. For your own peace of mind you might want to take a excavation safety class. I feel they are well worth the money and you gain some first hand knowledge of what is really your fault, not some body that is just out to get you if you do hit some thing.
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Old 05-07-2004, 02:01 AM
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I was contracted to replace a treated pine wall that fell over between 2 houses. There was suppose to be an electrical easement directly in front of the wall. I got out the energy authority to locate the cable. They couldn't find it! We were told not to hit the cable as it was 33,000 volts and fed a whole suburb. As we were delicately demolishing the wall we found the cable, behind the wall, and not in a conduit. There was however, a spare, empty conduit above the bare cable. We spent 3 days digging along side this cable and only had a little to go when some of the enbankment collapsed. I shovelled the spoil away and found that the conduit had fallen in also. I placed a sharpened steel peg into the ground to lever the conduit back out of the way. I was holding the peg and hit it 2 x with a hammer, on the second hit I unfortunately penetrated the outer casing of the cable and I was covered with a shower of sparks. My leg was burnt and my hair, eyebrows and eyelashes, were singed. The metal stake was 1 inch shorter. How I survived, no one knows. I should have been a molten blob on the ground.

Consiquently, I had blacked out a whole suburb. Schools, shops, homes, even a Maccas. Fortunately my insurance covered me for underground services. A wise policy to have. After this I am very wary of services, but it doesn't keep me up at night.

If your insurance doesn't cover underground services, I suggest you have a look at adding it to your policy.

By the way I have also hit a phone cably thet fed 2 main cities. It was only 100mm under a shopping centre foot path in an old earthenware pipe. The phone company had already located their services and no one knew it was there.
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Old 05-07-2004, 08:07 AM
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Quote:
Lately, it seems no one buries anything to code. gas lines, electric, cable, phone........they all seem to be at fault.
I would have to agre 100%. but you hit one and they want to charge you. I would have to agree with everyone, to call before you dig and get all possible information available. You just can't be too safe.
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Old 05-07-2004, 12:26 PM
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Each winter our local utilities offer a excavator safety class - was planning on going this year, but didn't have the time. It was cheap, $50 or so. Might be worthwhile, as Paul mentioned.

We hit a residential gas line, had 4 hook-and-ladders and 3 utility trucks there in about 5 minutes. It was a worrisome day, not to mention an embarrassing one. The fireman knocked on all the doors of all the houses nearby to tell them what was going on, and that they may come back and tell them to evacuate the area. I was about ready to stick my mouth on the open end of the cut line and just inhale for awhile.....

We also hit a power for a commercial area - though the line was marked, there was a large pile of fill atop it, piled 2' away from the asphalt parking lot that was already installed. Part of our job was the rough grading. Little did I know I should've been hand digging this 6' tall pile of fill - the power line was sitting 12-18" above where finished grade was to be. It was 12-18" above the asphalt. In fact, I'll attach a pic - the power line is highlighted in green. The pic was taken at ground level - caught it with the toothbar on the bucket - stopped the skidsteer dead in it's tracks. I was pretty fortunate - no sparks, no nuthin'. The business owner/builder called the utility about it and I never heard another word about it.
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Old 05-07-2004, 09:13 PM
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I'm going to be taking up and then re-laying a customer's interlock front walk. He wants me to extend it by just an extra 6 feet down along his driveway.

I called our "Ontario One Call" number to get locates done even though it's only about a 20 sq.ft. area. I don't want to chance it, and the service is free. They contact the utilities for you and schedule the locates.
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Old 05-07-2004, 09:37 PM
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Paul:

Remember about 10 years or so ago when Damgaard and Associaites were running a tree spade? It was in Hinsdale I believe....They hit a fiber optics line in a berm that was supposed to not be there...They had half a county out of phone service for a few weeks! If I am not mistaken that one loss forced closure of one of thier divisions. One other time up in Skokie, Palumbo hit a 10' diameter gas main and they evacuated a 12 block radius, shut off a whole power grid, etc.... Whatamess!
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Old 05-07-2004, 11:34 PM
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Funny this came up, check this article I had two customers on that street and live pretty close to it.

Please always call the utilitie companies.

http://www.dailyfreeman.com/site/new...id=74969&rfi=8
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Old 05-08-2004, 03:53 AM
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I remember those and a few more......... Like the contractor working at the CHA retirement home who hit the gas main sending flames 120' into the air or the DuPage County highway crew driving in a sign post hitting a fiber optic cable knocking out 1/3 the county...........
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Old 05-08-2004, 10:14 AM
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I remember that one myself...They would not let me bring any hot dogs...Alll that fire going to waste! LOL

Then there was the infamous Chicago flood...Great Lakes Dredge and Dock moves wooden pilings over just a few feet....Drives the post through an old coal utility tunnel that was 30 feet below the Chicago River...Knocks all of the loop out of commission for 3 weeks....Over 100 million in losses...

Take that time no matter what and call for those locations!
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In the year 1491, if the Naturescape Landscape Company did the site work in Pisa, Italy, they would not be calling it the "leaning" tower.

Encinitas, Ca. 92024

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Old 05-08-2004, 10:42 AM
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The residential work I do keeps me away from the big fatty gas, hydro and phone lines. In 22 years I have only ever uncovered one hyrdo line and it was right next to the meter. I do however cut many TV and phone cables in a year, that paint really does nothing to protect a phone line from a spade. I cut enough in a year to carry around tv and phone line repair supplies. I make temporary fixes until the repair guys get there the next day. If you talk nice they will usually top up your supplies for ya too.

A couple of years ago I had to dig a post hole pretty close to gas line that was marked out. Another contractor had called for the markout and I used his mark out. I ended up cutting through the gas line with my clam shovel. Because I hadn't called for the locates I ended up with a $1200 repair bill and a nasty letter and phone call from some government agency. I did most of the work too. I widened the hole so they would have room to work and I crimped off the 1/2" plastic line with a pair of vice-grips to stop or at least slow down the gas. They were finished in under 15 minutes, good deal huh.
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Old 05-09-2004, 12:39 PM
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Aztlan, I can't even imagine working at a client's house, only to have it explode minutes after starting work, due to something we did. I'd probably just sit down and cry. Either that or throw up.
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