Atmos Energy Issues Reminder to Call Before Digging

Natural gas company promotes National Safe Digging Month

By Catherine Ross
|  Thursday, Apr 4, 2013  |  Updated 6:19 PM CDT
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Atmos Energy is ramping up its awareness campaign asking everyone to call before they dig to avoid hitting gas lines.

Catherine Ross, NBC 5 Collin County Reporter

Atmos Energy is ramping up its awareness campaign asking everyone to call before they dig to avoid hitting gas lines.

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With the spring construction season getting into full swing, Atmos Energy is promoting safe digging.

The natural gas company is encouraging contractors and homeowners to call 811 before starting a dig.

"A lot of times, it can be a construction crew wrapping up a project really quickly because they just want to get it done and they just come so close to where our line is and then an accident occurs -- and it can debilitate an entire neighborhood," Atmos spokeswoman Jennifer Ryan said.

Frederick Beversdorf, technical training and delivery manage, said people don't use proper excavation protocol 40 percent of the time, adding excavators don't even bother to make the call before starting a project 25 percent of the time.

Many crews also don't respect the hand dig zone, which located 18 inches on either side of a marked line, he said.

"If those things were eliminated, it would narrow it down greatly," Beversdorf said.

According to the American Gas Association, nearly 60 percent of accidents involving natural gas distribution pipelines result from excavation damage.

Texas state law requires third parties to call 811 within 48 business hours of starting a dig. Atmos Energy then dispatches a crew to mark the utility lines of a property, free of charge.

Ryan said that making the phone call is not just a contractor's responsibility, but that of the homeowner or business owner.

Failing to call could not only lead to service disruptions to the entire neighborhood but create safety risks and even financial liability, she said.

"There are damages, there are fees you'd be responsible for,' she said.

Atmos responded Thursday morning after a third party cut a two-inch gas line in Frisco, which shut down lanes of Preston Road and forced about a dozen employees to evacuate from a nearby business.

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