April is Safe Digging Month. I have written before about the importance of calling 811 before you begin a project that involves digging, but it is a message that bears repeating. As the weather warms and we get back outside, sometimes our enthusiasm takes over. So let me remind you once again that a free call to West Virginia 811 can save you from a world of trouble. Just dial 811 before you dig so that utilities can mark the location of their underground lines. This is not just a good idea or a suggestion – it’s the law.
Utilities that have underground lines include water, sewer, electricity, telephone, cable and natural gas. If you hit an underground utility line, the least that might happen is that you and your neighbors have to do without that utility service until the line is repaired. The worst that could happen is that you or someone near you could suffer serious injury or even die. Hitting a natural gas or electric line is never a small matter.
Protecting public utilities and the people who want to dig where lines are buried was the reason the West Virginia Damage Prevention Board was founded. The Legislature formed the board in July 2018 and required that one of the 10 members must be a representative of the Public Service Commission.
When an underground utility line is damaged, the board will take action. Whether the offender is a professional with a backhoe or a homeowner with a shovel, there will be consequences. The goal of the board is to avoid incidents, so they prefer to educate rather than punish. A first offence will require you to watch an instructional video and pay a fine. Repeat offenders can be fined as much as $5,000 per incident and be charged with a misdemeanor.
So, I advise you to avoid these issues by complying with the One Call law. Dial 811 or visit www.wv811.com to make arrangements. Bear in mind that utility companies need 48 hours to respond to your request, not counting holidays or weekends. Call 811 far enough in advance to allow for this time and plan your projects accordingly. And if you see a situation that could endanger underground utility lines, you can report it at www.wvdpb.com. Stay safe and enjoy the spring!