Striking Underground Utilities is a Recipe for Disaster

These incidents are preventable, and we can show you how.

Striking Underground Utilities is a Recipe for Disaster

These incidents are preventable, and we can show you how.

A lot is at stake when an underground utility line is struck.

There’s the immediate financial expense of repairing the damage, not to mention potential repercussions to the environment and the surrounding communities.

In Huntsville, Alabama, a family of seven saw their house explode after an independent contractor struck a gas line while working in the area. And residents in one neighborhood in O’Fallon, Missouri, were forced to evacuate their homes numerous times over a months-long saga in which a crew kept hitting gas lines while digging at a fiber broadband installation site.

Lives could be lost, such as when a firefighter was tragically killed in an explosion that destroyed a city block in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, where, just as in O’Fallon, Missouri, a gas line was punctured as workers were laying fiber optic cable lines.

Accidents like these can often be avoided with proper planning and equipment use. Utilizing a utility locating company such as GPRS to find subsurface obstructions before ground is broken allows municipalities and businesses to avoid the consequences of striking an underground utility, saving time, money – and even lives.

The financial cost of underground utility strikes is substantial. According to a report published by the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the direct and indirect costs of damage caused by strikes totaled around $40 billion in 2021 alone, with the privately funded Infrastructure Protection Coalition putting the figure closer to $61 billion. These figures include the “hidden” costs of repairs, such as legal settlements, medical care, and lost productivity. The costs can vary significantly depending on the type of line that was struck, the extent of the damage, and the response time by emergency services.

As was the case in the previously mentioned incidents in Alabama, Missouri, and Wisconsin, disruptions can affect surrounding communities where residents may be temporarily displaced or unable to perform their daily activities. 

Inadvertently severing sewer or gas lines can also lead to the contamination of nearby soils and water sources. This contamination can cause long-term harm to the ecosystem and require extensive remediation efforts. Contaminated soil can become a liability for construction companies, leading to further expenses and regulatory consequences.

A GPRS Project Manager uses a ground penetrating radar unit to mark out subsurface obstructions in a parking lot.
Utility locating companies like GPRS use sophisticated technology like ground penetrating radar (GPR) to find subsurface obstructions before they can be struck during a construction project.

It is vital to take all necessary precautions before starting any excavation or drilling. This starts with creating and implementing a comprehensive Ground Disturbance Policy, which requires the use of specialized equipment such as ground - penetrating radar (GPR) and electromagnetic (EM) locators to identify the location of underground utilities before excavation begins. 

GPR is a detection method that uses radio waves to identify buried or hidden components within a structure or beneath a surface. It can detect both metallic and non-metallic objects for a wide range of applications.

EM locators complement GPR well by offering another solution for locating underground utilities. Consisting of a transmitter and a receiver, these devices emit a selected frequency to detect where utilities are located. 

Per your Ground Disturbance Policy, workers should also be trained in safe excavation techniques, including the use of hand tools to avoid hitting buried utility lines accidentally. Safety initiatives such as Concrete Sawing & Drilling Safety Week, and Concrete Safety Week offer you the opportunity to get your team members vital training on how to work safely on the job site so that everyone leaves at the end of the day the same way they came to work.

It is also critical to call 811 before you dig. This is a nationwide toll-free number that puts you in contact with a locator who will come out to your job site and mark out the approximate locations of all public utilities. The demarcation line between public and private utilities typically ends at the meter, ground transformer, shutoff valve, or termination box, and the property owner’s responsibility for the lines begins wherever it is determined that they become private.

By utilizing both 811 and a private utility locator such as GPRS, you get the peace of mind that comes with having a comprehensive picture of what’s going on underneath your feet.

Striking just one underground utility could lead to significant financial, environmental, and social consequences. By adopting robust safety protocols, proper planning, and the use of communication of ground disturbance policies, construction companies can avoid these incidents and ensure the safety of their workers and surrounding communities.

GPRS Project Managers use a variety of utility locating and leak detection tools to investigate a parking lot.
GPRS has a nationwide team of elite Project Managers fully equipped to tackle your utility locating and concrete scanning needs.

GPRS’ elite team of Project Managers use only the most advanced technology to conduct our utility locating and concrete scanning services, so you know precisely what’s underground before you dig. We utilize both ground penetrating radar (GPR) and electromagnetic (EM) locators to find all subsurface obstructions that could cause catastrophe if struck. 

With over 350,000 projects completed and a better than 99.8% accuracy rating on those jobs, GPRS is a utility locating and precision concrete scanning company you can rely on. We have teams strategically stationed in every major market across the country, which means you always have a reliable private utility locating service near you.

We’re here to help, so schedule a job today and we can Intelligently Visualize The Built World™ together.