Gas pipeline markers are a safety measure
TRI-COUNTY AREA—A number of underground natural gas pipelines run through the area.
The pipelines have little impact on regular day-to-day activities, but can be a safety concern if someone improperly digs or excavates around them. Pipeline companies place signs and markers above ground in the general area of a pipeline. Empire Pipeline, which is one such company operating in the area, explained the markers are helpful in showing an approximate pipe location, but not the depth, number or exact direction of the pipes. New York State Electric and Gas adds that the markers do list the material being transported, the name of the pipeline operator, and the telephone number where the operator can be reached in the event of an emergency.
The underground pipes can carry both gaseous and liquid materials, with some even containing odorless and colorless products. Empire explained many liquids form gaseous vapor clouds when released into the air. The company added that other, heavier-than-air gasses and liquids will stay near the ground and collect in low spots. According to the industry, all petroleum gases and liquids are flammable and any pipeline leak can be potentially dangerous.
That is why Empire Pipeline explains it is important to look for the signs and markers in the area where excavation is planned. People shouldn’t guess the route or location of the pipeline. The company who owns the pipe can be contacted for the exact location; the phone number is on the corresponding markers.
NYSEG says to “contact Dig Safely New York at least two working days (not counting the day you call) but not more than 10 working days before you plan to start your project. Digging can be dangerous and costly without locating underground facilities before you start.”
NYSEG added when someone is doing construction near pipelines to:
• Plan to have underground utilities marked as part of all underground construction.
• Mark out the area of construction.
• Call Dig Safely New York at 811 or 1-800-962-7962.
• Properly maintain all underground utility markings.
• Hand dig in the area of underground facilities.
• Provide adequate protection and support for underground facilities.
• Use and properly install suitable backfill material around underground facilities.
All excavation projects require a call to Dig Safely New York, even small projects like planting trees and shrubs, or installing a fence or mailbox. Digging might damage any underground utility lines, not just gas lines. The 811 number is a national Call Before You Dig line. Local call centers get in contact with the affected utility companies to go out and mark underground lines for free.
For those who have already dug into the ground and possibly damaged the pipeline, Empire recommends contacting the company immediately. Dig Safely New York, Inc. added never assume someone else reported a leak. Empire Pipeline said even a gouge, scrape, dent, or crease to piping or coating may cause a future break or leak.
Empire Pipeline also suggests that in the case of a leak, public safety officials secure the area by evacuating people if necessary. The company added that if a leak is not burning, the public safety official should take steps to prevent ignition. However, Empire adds that if the leak is burning it should not be put out, because it could explode when it re-ignites.