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April is National Safe Digging Month

Protecting underground utilities is even more important than before

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – April 3, 2020 – With millions sheltering in place, many homeowners and do-it-yourselfers are taking this time to tackle household projects. As the weather warms, projects may move outdoors – from planting a tree to installing a new fence or mailbox. Knowing where underground utility lines are before you dig helps prevent injuries, property damage and inconvenient service outages, which is critical with more people at home and dependent on the energy they need to fuel their lives and bring comfort during this time.

Virginia Natural Gas reminds members of the Coastal Virginia community, whether they are a professional excavator or do-it-yourself homeowner, state law requires a call to 811 before starting any outdoor digging project.

According to Common Ground Alliance, a national advocacy organization focused on preventing damage to underground infrastructure, there are nearly 20 million miles of underground utility lines in the U.S. This critical infrastructure such as natural gas lines, electric, water, sewer or fiber optic cable, is damaged once every few minutes because someone makes the mistake of digging without first calling 811.

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 and/or spray paint. If Virginia Natural Gas has natural gas pipelines in the area, their approximate location will be marked with yellow paint and/or flags. Once all lines have been marked, it is important that residents and excavators respect the marks and use the appropriate tools to dig with care according to legal, safe digging practices.

“Contractors and homeowners do not have to be present when utility lines are marked, nor converse with the workers to show where to make the locate marks. This provides both peace of mind with the current social distancing guidelines and for completing the project safely,” said Rus Hayslett, vice president of Operations at Virginia Natural Gas. “Please allow at least 72 business hours (three working days) after the time/date you request for utility locators to visit the job site or home and mark the area of work described on the locate request to ensure safe digging for your projects.”

The safe delivery of natural gas is paramount to everything we do. Virginia Natural Gas has taken appropriate precautions to protect the health and safety of our employees and customers while continuing to maintain our business operations. This includes limiting home visits to emergency responses and customer-driven work, adhering to social distancing guidelines, wearing personal protective equipment when necessary and enabling employees to work from home.

Utility workers are essential employees. We remain committed to doing our part to protect customers’ health and safety and we encourage Virginia residents to join us in our efforts to protect underground utilities. Call 811 or click before digging to help prevent injuries and property damage that may result in service outages.

If a natural gas line is damaged accidentally or the distinctive rotten-egg odor associated with natural gas is present, call 911 or the 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 or create an open flame.

For more information about natural gas safety, visit

To help children learn more about underground utilities, visit the Safe Digging Arcade for fun, interactive games. Complete all eight activities to become a Safe Digging champion!



About Virginia Natural Gas

Virginia Natural Gas is one of four 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 and has been recognized as one of the safest, most reliable and customer-focused natural gas service providers. Consistently ranked in the top quartile for customer satisfaction by J.D. Power and Associates, the company has also been recognized by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy and the Virginia Oil and Gas Association for its safety, community outreach and educational programs, and was named Local Distribution Company for three consecutive years. Virginia Natural Gas has been ranked by its business customers as being one of the most Trusted Business Partners in the utility industry according to Cogent Reports, and as one of the Top Workplaces in Hampton Roads by Inside Business. For more information, visit and connect with the company on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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 4.2 million natural gas utility customers through its regulated distribution companies in four states and approximately 700,000 retail customers through its companies that market natural gas. 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

Media Contact:
Rick DelaHaya
o: 757.616.7510 | c: 757.323.7366 | rdelahay@southernco.comPress Release Text