News Release            

For Release:         
April 1, 2016
Contact:       Bob Innes
                      (804) 768-6410
                      (804) 512-1425 - cellular 


No April Fool’s Day Joke!

Always Call 811 Before You Dig and Keep Virginia Safe!
April is National Safe Digging Month

Chester, VA – April 1, 2016 – It may be April Fool’s Day but it is no joke that the  failure to call 811 and have all underground utilities located is the number one risk to public and personal safety for Columbia Gas of Virginia and across the nation.

According to data collected by Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the national organization dedicated to protecting underground utility lines and the safety of people who dig near them, an underground utility line is damaged once every six minutes.

In the last twelve months Columbia Gas responded every 36 hours to 240 damages to its natural gas facilities. In many instances, these damages could have been avoided because someone failed to call 811 and have underground natural gas utilities located before starting to dig. Whether you’re planting a tree, installing a deck, digging a garden or on a large construction site, Virginia law requires you to always call 811 at least three working days before you start to dig.

“We don’t want anyone hurt by failing to call 811 and all we ask is for everyone to share the responsibility by always calling 811 before you dig,” said Phil Wilson, VP and general manager for operations at Columbia Gas. “By calling 811, anytime, anywhere you plan to dig, you can learn the appropriate location of all underground utilities and then safely proceed by digging with care.”

Everyone who calls 811 is connected to Virginia811, which then notifies all the utility companies with facilities in the excavation area of the caller’s intent to dig. Qualified professional utility locators are sent to the requested digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags and color-coded spray paint. Each type of utility has designated marking colors to clearly identify the type of underground facilities. Yellow is the designated color for natural gas and oil pipelines. It is a free service and will provide you with an understanding of which utility may be in conflict with your digging plans. Striking a utility can cause personal injury, repair costs, fines and loss of important utility service.

The depth of utility lines can vary for a number of reasons, such as erosion, previous digging projects and uneven surfaces. Installing a mailbox, building a deck and planting a tree or garden are all examples of digging projects that should only begin a few days after making a call to 811.

Columbia Gas of Virginia reminds any person planning to dig to follow four simple steps and dig with care around underground utilities:

Step 1 - Plan and call ahead – Always call 811 at least three days before digging, regardless of the familiarity with the property. By calling on Monday it allows for utilities to be marked for the following weekend project.
Step 2 – Allow required time for marking – Utility companies have 2-working days to mark their facilities beginning at 7:00 am on the next working day after calling 811. It does not include weekends or official state or Federal holidays.
Step 3 – Respect and protect the marks – Do not cover up or destroy the utility markings as they indicate the approximate location of underground utilities. Contact the utility if marks are destroyed.
Step 4 – Excavate carefully – Do not dig with mechanized equipment within 24 inches of either side of the utility markings. Once the utility line has been exposed protect the integrity of the facility while digging.  Call the utility if you need assistance.

         If during excavation or digging in the yard, the strong smell similar to “Rotten Eggs” is present, Columbia Gas urges you take the following actions:

  • Immediately leave the area
  • From a safe location away from the odor, call 911 and Columbia Gas of Virginia at 800.544.5606.
  • Warn others to stay away from the area
  • Leave windows and doors in their current position
  • Avoid open flames or anything that could spark ignition - including cell phones, lights, garage doors or other power equipment.
  • Do not attempt to operate pipeline valve or try to correct the leak.
  • When emergency personnel arrive explain the situation to them.

About Columbia Gas of Virginia
Columbia Gas of Virginia delivers safe, reliable and clean natural gas to customers in portions of Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, suburban Richmond, Central Virginia, and the Shenandoah Valley, the Lynchburg region and parts of Western Virginia.  With headquarters in Chesterfield County, the company is one of the 7 energy distribution companies of NiSource Inc. (NYSE: NI) serving 3.8 million natural gas and electric customers. Always call 811 before you dig and Dig with CARE.  Learn more at