Springtime marks the unofficial start of gardening season across British Columbia. It’s also traditionally the time of year when utilities such as FortisBC see a spike in the number of calls to repair damage to their underground natural gas pipes.
According to FortisBC, 99 per cent of the damage to its natural gas system is caused by third parties such as construction crews, contractors and homeowners. Even the smallest damage could require thousands of dollars of repair work and force FortisBC crews to shut down service to other customers in the area.
If you’re the one who caused the damage, you could be on the hook for the entire cost of the repairs.Before you put your shovel into the ground, FortisBC encourages you to call BC One Call at 1-800-474-6886 (or *6886 from a mobile phone) or visit bconecall.bc.ca to get up-to-date information on the location of underground pipes and wires. The service is completely free and could save you money.
“Whether you’re planting a rose bush or installing a new fence, it’s important to call or click before you dig,’” says Ian Turnbull, Damage Prevention and Emergency Services Manager at FortisBC.
The next step is following safe digging practices such as hand digging and avoiding the use of mechanized equipment when working near underground utilities. Turnbull notes that FortisBC has seen a measureable drop in the number of incidents because the public is more aware of the BC One Call service.
“Last year our crews responded to the least amount of third-party damage to our natural gas system compared to previous years,” says Turnbull.
FortisBC’s safe digging tips:
1. Call BC One Call toll-free at 1-800-474-6886 (or *6886 from any cell phone) at least three business days before you start digging, or open an e-ticket at bconecall.bc.ca. BC One Call will contact its members with underground facilities in the area and you’ll be provided with requested information at no cost.
2. Have all location information on site and refer to it during any digging.
3. Use the information to locate and mark lines and maintain the markings until digging is underway.
4. HAND DIG FIRST to locate and carefully expose natural gas pipelines, underground electrical wires and other utilities before using mechanical equipment like backhoes or augers.