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How do I dig around buried facilities?

Digging near a buried facility
Look what I found...
Preserving Marks
Reporting Gas Emergencies
Standard Color Codes
The Five Steps

So, we've seen the marks that the locators have made. And, we've taken measures to preserve them. Now, let's take a look at what these marks actually mean:

Tip:Avoid starting an excavation until you have confirmed all notified utilities have either responded to or cleared the worksite. The presence of some orange markings does NOT mean all of the telephone lines have been located... there may be more than one telephone company (i.e. long distance and fiber carriers, etc.), the locator may not have finished marking, or some unknowing individual may have arbitrarily painted something with that color.

When you call Dig|Safely. New York, our CSR will give you a list of the utilities we will be contacting. Always be certain our CSR gives this list to you, and always be certain these utilities have all responded to (or cleared) your worksite before you begin. Additionally, we've written a web-application that creates a checklist of which utilities have registered in each place.

Big Tip:For any place where you will be excavating, you can print a Stakeout Response Checklist to keep handy when you call.


Common Marking Styles

Style 1, indicates width of facility

Usually indicates a large facility or conduit. The dashed lines indicate the outer edges of the facility.

Style 2, indicates width of facility

Usually indicates a large facility or conduit. The width of the facility is indicated (24"in the example).

Style 3, for pipes, lines, and cables

Usually indicates small pipes or cable(s) of unknown size.

Tip: Facility operators almost never give out depth information. If you find some markings with numbers next to them (like Style 2, above,) the numbers probably indicate how wide the facility is. Experience shows that you should never trust depth information, even if it is given!

So, now I know where the utilities are... how do I dig around them?

By law, each type of marking requires that you observe a certain Tolerance Zone.

For markings that indicate width, the tolerance zone is the width of the facility plus 2 feet on either side.

For markings that do not indicate width, the tolerance zone is 2 feet on either side of the markings.

Before you can use mechanized digging equipment in a tolerance zone, you must first verify the presence and location of the buried facility.

This is traditionally done by creating hand-dug test holes in the area you expect the facility to be in. However, Vacuum Excavation is quickly becoming the new favorite method. [ more info on verification... ] Should it be necessary to remove pavement or masonry, you may use mechanized equipment to remove the pavement or masonry - but only to the depth of that pavement or masonry.

Once you have found the facility, you may begin to use mechanized digging equipment with some restrictions [ what are they? ] provided you do not endanger the facility.

If you are unable to find the facility after performing a reasonable search, the law says you cannot start the excavation. Contact the facility owner directly with your problem, and they will come out right away and help you find it.

If you will be exposing a facility, you will be required to provide adequate support and protection for it.

[ more info on support and protection... ]

In addition, you will also be required to provide an adequate backfill when you finish. [ more info on backfilling... ]

Should you ever come into contact with a buried facility, it's all described here...

... as is finding an unmarked facility.