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27 Mar 2020

Underground Digging Protocol


Digging into soil whether on your property, or onto client property as a contractor can be a risky

proposition when digging begins without notifying and obtaining assistance from the respective authority in your state. This is due to the utility lines: gas, water, sewer, electric utility pipelines that may be located below the property. Within the U.S. for any state, and in the Canadian provinces the phone number to call is 811 or click on to find out what is required in your state. In Illinois it is 811 or online click on:


Routinely, the steps to take are:

Pre-mark or outline the proposed dig area using white paint or flags

Call or click JULIE (Joint Utility Locator Information for Excavators)

in Illinois or 811 on the phone before you dig in any state

Wait the required time until all operators in affected area have provided a positive response

Respect the marks

Dig with care

When you call, the one-call center will collect information about the location of your intended dig and then contact the companies that may operate underground facilities in that location, facilities such as hazardous liquid and natural gas pipelines, telecommunications systems, electrical utilities, and sewer and water pipelines. Those companies must, by law, determine if their facilities could be affected by your excavation. If so, they must visit the excavation site and mark the exact location of their facilities with flags or paint. State laws specify how much time they are allowed to perform these actions and, thus, how far in advance you must call before digging.

Utility companies when responding to 811 call center, generally utilize the following marking colors: white (proposed excavation), pink (temporary survey markings), red (electric lines and lighting cables), yellow (gas, oil, petroleum and stem lines), orange (communication lines, cables or alarm signals), blue (potable water), purple (reclaimed water or irrigation lines) and green (sewer and drain lines). (from U.S. Department of Transportation).

The ground you walk, drive and play on every day covers an unbelievable amount of underground utility lines. According to data compiled by CGA – Common Ground Alliance from various industry groups, there are more than 20 million miles of underground utility lines. This figure amounts to more than one football (105 yards) of lines below ground for every man, women, and child in the country. You can understand why it is very important that you contact 811 to determine what is below ground. It is better to be prepared and safe then sorry and suffer the dangerous and costly consequences.