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Safe Digging is no Accident: Dial 811 Before Beginning Outdoor Projects

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – April 2, 2018 – April marks the traditional start of the digging season with homeowners and contractors beginning outdoor projects increasing the chance of damages to underground utility lines, including natural gas pipelines. Virginia Natural Gas is joining other utilities, one-call centers and damage prevention advocates across the country to encourage Virginia residents to call 811 before beginning any digging projects to prevent injuries, property damage and inconvenient outages.

A free call made to 811 connects to VA811, which notifies the appropriate utility companies of the intent to dig. Professional locators are then sent free of charge to the requested digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags or spray paint. Yellow paint indicates the presence of underground natural gas pipelines. Once lines have been accurately marked, it is important that residents respect the marks and use the appropriate tools to dig carefully.

There are more than 20 million miles of underground utilities in the U.S., according to the Common Ground Alliance. The underground utility industry association also reports that an underground utility line is damaged once every nine minutes nationwide during a digging project that wasn’t first marked by an 811 call. Digging without knowing the approximate location of underground utilities can result in serious injuries, service disruptions and costly repairs when natural gas, electric, communications, water and sewer lines are damaged.

To protect underground utilities and help ensure that communities stay safe and connected, Virginia Natural Gas is providing homeowners and professional excavators with the following safe digging guidelines:

  • Call 811 before you dig. When starting an outdoor project involving digging, customers are required to contact VA811 at 811 or 800.552.7001 as part of their project plans. Calls to the free locating service can be made 24 hours a day, seven days a week to request utility operators mark underground facilities, including: natural gas, water, cable, telephone and electric lines.
  • Before any digging begins, customers are urged to call 811 and wait the required 48 business hour timeframe to have underground utility lines marked. The approximate location of underground utility lines will be marked with color-coded spray paint, flags or stakes that correspond to the utility. The color used for marking natural gas is yellow.
  • Respect the marks. Once the lines are marked, use allowable digging methods, which include using hand tools, and dig carefully if within 18 inches of the marked utility lines.
  • Excavate carefully. Make sure the marks remain visible during the project. If the locating marks are damaged or removed, customers are encouraged to call 811 to have locating marks refreshed. If a natural gas line is damaged accidentally or the distinct odor of gas is present, residents are required to call 911 and Virginia Natural Gas’ 24-hour emergency phone line at 877.572.3342 from a safe location. Do not operate any machinery or equipment that might cause a spark.

For more information about natural gas safety, visit virginianaturalgas.com/safety.

About Virginia Natural Gas

Virginia Natural Gas is one of seven natural gas distribution companies of Southern Company Gas, a wholly owned subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO). Virginia Natural Gas provides natural gas service to nearly 300,000 customers in southeast Virginia. Virginia Natural Gas has been recognized as one of the safest, most reliable and customer-focused natural gas service providers, and is consistently ranked in the top quartile for customer satisfaction by J.D. Power and Associates. In 2017, Virginia Natural Gas earned the Most Trusted Brand recognition from Market Strategies International’s Cogent Report™ study, and for the second consecutive year was named Local Distribution Company of the Year by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy and the Virginia Oil and Gas Association. For more information, visit virginianaturalgas.com and connect with the company on Facebook and Twitter.

About Southern Company Gas

Southern Company Gas is a wholly owned subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE: SO), America’s premier energy company. Southern Company Gas serves approximately 4.6 million natural gas utility customers through its regulated distribution companies in seven states and more than 1 million retail customers through its companies that market natural gas and related home services. Other nonutility businesses include investments in interstate pipelines, asset management for natural gas wholesale customers and ownership and operation of natural gas storage facilities. For more information, visit www.southerncompanygas.com.

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Media Contact:
Jennifer Golz
o: 630.388.3737  |  c: 331.222.8716 |  jgolz@southernco.com