In case you missed it, last Friday was National “Call Before You Dig” Day. Many utility companies, including Duke, used this as an opportunity to remind people to call 811 forty-eight hours before beginning any kind of excavation work. The goal of the 811 “call Before You Dig” program is to help people avoid damaging underground utilities, including natural gas lines, during digging activities. If you call 811, the local utility company or one of their contractors will come out and mark the location of underground utilities within 48 hours.
While we wholeheartedly encourage effective programs that reduce the risk of an accidental pipeline rupture, results from a recent study published by the Common Ground Alliance are disappointing. Not only is 3rd party damage to natural gas pipelines increasing, most of these accidents were not caused by a failure to provide notice.
According to a 2016 report, in Ohio, the number of incidents caused by digging or excavation damage is growing. Specifically, in 2016 there were 4,756 reported cases of 3rd party damage to natural gas pipelines compared to 3,482 in 2015 — an increase of 36%. (Common Ground Alliance 2016 DIRT Report)
Most of these incidents were caused by were caused by insufficient practices in excavation (46%) or location (30%), rather than failure to call before digging. Nineteen percent were caused by failure to notify 811.
While Duke cannot control contractor excavation practices, they can impact the location of new pipeline infrastructure. Duke should not knowingly put high-pressure pipelines in densely populated areas when there are significant gaps in safety mechanisms.
In the interest of transparency and public safety, Duke should conduct a complete risk assessment and share this with our local municipalities. If Duke does not do this voluntarily, the Ohio Power Siting Board should insist upon it.