Rapidly Growing List of Homeowners Should “Know What’s Below” Before Digging

East Syracuse, NY - With the housing market continuing to experience tremendous growth and the ranks of first-time buyers swelling as well, Dig Safely New York is reminding new and experienced homeowners of the need to exercise caution when undertaking outdoor digging projects.  As spring transitions to summer, it’s the usual time for a variety of outdoor projects that involve either major or minor excavation, ranging from pool installation to landscaping projects and tree planting, to the installation of patios or fencing.  By law, professional contractors and excavators are required to place a “location Request” through the 811 system, managed in 55 Upstate New York Counties by Dig Safely New York, any time they are planning a project that requires digging. Home and property owners should consider that a best practice and are strongly encouraged to follow the same process when undertaking any digging project.

When a homeowner or professional excavator submits a location request, either by calling 811 or using Dig Safely New York’s online Exactix tool, all utilities likely to have underground facilities in the area of the project are notified and must respond by marking those lines/pipes. Most people at some point have noticed markings on streets and property lines that indicate the presence of a public utility such as gas, water, or sewer main. These are painted or flagged to protect those utilities from damage during the course of a digging project.  What many homeowners may not realize, however, is that once that utility service crosses over their property line and onto their own personal property, they assume ownership and maintenance of that line within their property boundaries.  With that comes the responsibility for identifying and protecting those private facilities during any digging project.  Just as is the case with public utilities, damages to these could lead to interruption of service, financial liability, and worse – personal injury or significant property damage.

As an example, a water main serves all the houses on a particular street and is classified as “public”, but the line/branch that carries water from the curb to the point it reaches the home is considered a “private” utility because it serves only that home.  The only exception to this rule relates to gas lines, due to the high volatility and potential for great damage.  The gas company has the responsibility to mark their lines right up to the point they enter a dwelling.

Other examples of private utilities are underground wiring leading to landscape lighting and irrigation lines to run a sprinkler system. In short, anything added after the original construction of the home, and which the public utility company did not install nor is aware of, becomes the responsibility of the homeowner. In those cases, the homeowner can utilize a private locating service to identify any underground facilities in the vicinity of the proposed dig area to dramatically reduce the chance of injury, property damage, and costly repairs. A link to a private locating service and additional information on private utilities and homeowner education can be found at www.digsafelynewyork.com/homeowners.