How To Protect Your Municipality From The Dangers of Directional Drilling

What public works directors can do to prevent these dangerous utility intersections before they get deadly

How To Protect Your Municipality From The Dangers of Directional Drilling

What public works directors can do to prevent these dangerous utility intersections before they get deadly

Over 1 million cross bores lie undetected throughout the U.S. as estimated by The Cross Bore Safety Association.

Each one of these underground utility intersections is a potential disaster waiting to happen in a municipality. Whether it’s a damaged phone line resulting in a service interruption that stops citizens from contacting 911 when they need it most, or an exploding gas line struck by a plumber causing $30,000,000 in damages, and burning two little girls, municipal utility and safety managers ignore cross bores caused by directional drilling at their peril.

These damages occur more often than you think and are the result of contractors directional drilling without knowing the locations of underground sewer and utility infrastructure; leaving behind a life-threatening result known as a utility cross bore.

Video footage of a cross bore in a sewer line.
GPRS Video Pipe Inspection Project Manager Andy Jurski discovered this cross bore within a sewer line.

What is a Cross Bore?

A cross bore as stated by the Cross Bore Safety Association is “an intersection of an existing underground structure by a second utility resulting in direct contact between the transactions of the utilities that compromise the integrity of either utility or underground structure”.

The presence of an undetected cross bore in a sewer line can result in backups in the  line, compromise the structural integrity of the sewer pipes, cause contamination, and damage the overall sewer system.

Cross bored utility lines in a trench.
A gas line drilled through an existing sewer line, resulting in a dangerous cross bore.

Why Cross Bore Prevention Matters

Since the year 2000, there have been dozens of reported explosions as a result of sewer lines being directionally drilled through by gas line installers. These events result in what is known in the video pipe inspection industry as a ticking time bomb. Because it’s not if they’ll explode, it’s when. When gas lines that have been drilled through an existing sewer line rupture, methane gas can leak into homes above the cross bore, and at the flip of a switch could result in a deadly explosion as shown in the images below.

A home before and after an explosion caused by a cross bored gas line.
A home before and after an explosion caused by a cross bored gas line.

How You Can Prevent Cross Bores in Your Municipality

While calling 811 before you dig is required by law and is the first step needed to get all public utilities located prior to breaking ground when directional drilling occurs, sewers are often unmarked and excluded from most 811 dig requirements leaving the job to map out sewer lines and other private facilities on site up to a private utility locator such as GPRS. In most cases, the responsibility to contact this private utility locator is in the hands of the contactor performing the directional drilling service. While many companies are proactive and take this step to keep existing infrastructure safe, others decide not to, which results in more cross bores within the existing underground infrastructure, as shown in the image below.

A PVC sewer line damaged by another utility line cross bored through it.
The main sewer line for a community was drilled through because no one called a private utility locator to map the underground utilities before applying trenchless technology.

What Can The Public Works Department Do To Help?

The public works department as defined by, is “responsible for the construction and maintenance of city streets, highways, city parking facilities, city parks, city storm and sanitary sewers and all other owned properties and facilities.”

These facilities fall under the responsibility of the local public works department, which gives the Public Works Director of the municipality the ability to require all contractors performing directional drilling work within their city to conduct mandatory pre and post cross bore inspection services anytime directional drilling work occurs.

This standard can significantly limit new damages caused by directional drilling while also ensuring that any strike that previously occurred is accurately located and fixed as shown in the city of Fremont, California.

The True Cost of Directional Drilling Damages

In 2021, the use of directional drilling to install new utility lines resulted in 19,521 reported underground utility strikes which was the third most prominent statistic for utility damage from the Common Ground Alliance's 2021 DIRT Report. These damages, when taking into consideration the $56,000 cost of damaging and repairing an individual utility line, resulted in over $1 billion in damage in 2021 alone, not including indirect costs of cross bore damages.

Directional Drilling resulted in at least $1,093,176,000 in utility damages in 2021 alone.

No matter how you look at it, damages caused by directional drilling and cross bores are expensive and dangerous. Sewer line repairs alone can cost up to $150,000 per cross bore while other damages caused by cross bore-initiated explosions have been upwards of $30,000,000 due to property damage and injuries.

As mentioned before, however, due to the Public Works Director overseeing the sewer infrastructure of the community, the power and authority to mitigate these damages in municipalities around country lies in their hands. By requiring pre and post cross bore inspections any time new utilities are installed, they can protect their citizens, infrastructure, and bottom line by spending a few thousand dollars for inspection and mitigation costs versus hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars for damage and repair costs. zero cost to their municipality. These requirements can not only help protect the local governments bottom line and infrastructure, but also can keep their reputation from tarnish within the local community.

Why You Should Contact GPRS For Your Cross Bore Inspection Needs

Cross bore mitigation is always our team’s biggest focus. – Andy Jurski, GPRS Senior Video Pipe Inspection Project Manager

While there are CCTV pipe inspection companies throughout the U.S., there is only one with Project Managers that are certified in both Subsurface Investigative Methodology (SIM) and National Association of Sewer Services Companies (NASSCO) specifications, and located in every major market throughout the United States.

GPRS’ nationwide team of Video Pipe Inspection Project Managers are equipped with the industry’s best training, technology, and methodology to give our customers the most accurate and comprehensive cross bore inspection services in the country.

Every one of our sewer inspection services is backed by our 99.8+% utility locating accuracy on over 500,000 projects completed. So you can be confident that your sewer lines will be accurately mapped and marked to give you the best above and below ground imagery of your existing lines.

All of this data is housed and delivered within our cutting-edge digital utility & infrastructure mapping platform, SiteMap® (Patent Pending) or you to interact with and access any time you need it. GPRS’ nationwide coverage provides you with services to support large scale cross bore inspection municipal projects ranging from large cities with hundreds of miles of sanitary and storm sewer lines such as Los Angeles, California, all the way to small rural communities with only a few miles of municipal sewer lines such as West Unity, Ohio.

A GPRS Project Manager lowers a sewer inspection rover into an open manhole.
GPRS Video Pipe Inspection Services help you prevent serious problems with your wastewater infrastructure such as cross bores.

With cross bore damage on the rise and no end to directional drilling in sight, it is critical to protect your municipalities underground infrastructure from the dangers of cross bores by contacting a GPRS VPI Project Manager, today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I need a private utility locator before directional drilling?

Why is it important to do pre and post cross bore inspections?

Who performs cross bore inspections near me?