New sewer line campaign launched

January 2012, Vol. 67 No. 1

Officials from natural gas utilities representing operations in Minnesota and parts of Wisconsin, North Dakota and Michigan, announced the launch of a new safety campaign to raise awareness around natural gas and sewer line cross bore issues, providing solutions to protect the public.

The “Call Before You Clear” campaign and website provide useful information to plumbers, sewer cleaning contractors and natural gas customers, about the potential hazards associated with natural gas and sewer lines intersecting underground – a situation commonly known as a “cross bore.” It also includes contact information to be used for participating utilities before a sewer line is cleared to ensure there are no cross bores with a natural gas line.

“Many utilities use underground horizontal directional digging to install natural gas lines beneath streets, driveways and mature trees to minimize damage,” said Bill Kaphing, vice president of operations for Xcel Energy and Call Before You Clear campaign lead. “This approach is commonly used because it involves significantly less environmental impacts and disruption to the community than open trench digging. However, former utility industry practices were less precise than they are today. As a result, vintage sewer lines that were made of clay or not locatable may have been intersected unknowingly when a natural gas line was installed.”

Before clearing a sewer line using mechanical equipment such as an auger, plumbers, sewer cleaning contractors or customers should first contact the natural gas utility serving the area. Participating utilities will examine their records to determine if any potential conflicts exist and whether an in-sewer camera inspection is needed. If an in-sewer camera inspection is needed, participating utilities will send a professionally trained sewer camera contractor to the location to complete an inspection.

Contractors use a special camera that goes inside the sewer line to identify any conflicts or “cross bores” with underground natural gas lines. There is no charge for this service.

To learn more about the Call Before You Clear campaign, visit www.callbeforeyouclear.com