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Discovering the Invisible: Locating Underground Utility Lines

Underground Utility Lines

Underground Utility Lines

A single utility strike costs an average of $56,000 and risks significant injury or death. Damage to buried lines can also impact the community, leading to power outages and expensive repairs.

Discovering the Invisible is a lively look at an age-old idea. From x-rays to particle movements, the invisible worlds made visible by advances in science have been an essential source for Impressionist and Symbolist painters, art nouveau sculptors, and the Cubists.

Call Before You Dig

As you tackle outdoor projects such as installing a pool, digging in the garden, or adding new landscaping features, it is essential to remember to call 811. This free service (“One Call”) notifies utility companies of your plan to dig. Within a few days, a locator will be sent to the site to mark the estimated location of underground lines with flags or spray paint.

The process is safe and required by law. Striking a single line can result in severe injury, costly repairs or outages, and state fines.

One Call center or utility locating service, generally run by states, is responsible for contacting all public utilities in your area. They will then notify local excavation contractors to head out and mark where their buried lines are located on your property. However, they are not responsible for private facilities such as your meter base, well, or outbuildings. These are typically found on the homeowner’s property and are not marked by one-call center workers.

Know Your Limits

A mistake can cause significant damage, impacting everyone, from customers to contractors. That’s why it’s essential to know your limits when digging. Whether landscaping, installing a driveway, or building your dream home, it is crucial to respect buried utility lines by calling 8-1-1 before starting any excavation project.

The nationwide call number, often referred to as “One Call” or “Call Before You Dig,” notifies different regional services that coordinate location activities for underground public utilities. The local utility companies then send out professionals to mark the location of their general lines on your property using flags, spray paint, or other marking methods.

There are many methods for locating underground utility lines Festus MO, including ground-penetrating radar (GPR), radio detection, and passive detection. However, these tools require a trained professional and may only be accurate in some conditions. If a line cannot be located by these tools, invasive potholing or excavation may be required to expose the line and ensure its safety.

White-Line Your Job Site

In addition to calling 811 for public lines, white lining your job site is an effective tool that increases safety and reduces wasted time and effort during the ticket and excavation process. White lining your work area helps the utility locator focus on your specific dig site, resulting in an accurate set of locates and a more efficient process.

It’s also worth mentioning that many states require 811 to mark only the public utilities on your property and not private ones. Private utility locating is the responsibility of the property owner, and examples include power coming from your water meter to your home, propane lines from tanks to sheds or exterior lighting, invisible pet fences, and septic systems.

Using GPR and EM locating technology, professional private utility locators can identify these private utilities on residential or commercial properties. The Common Ground Alliance recommends using a personal locator with extensive experience who adheres to the industry’s best practices and can provide references.


When a homeowner or contractor hits a buried utility line, it could result in serious injury, costly damage to the infrastructure, and disruption of service to the entire neighborhood. That’s why it’s important to call 8-1-1 or your state’s one-call utility locating service before starting any digging project, big or small.

Upon making your call, the locating service will notify all its member utility providers. They will then send representatives to mark the approximate location of underground lines with paint, flags, or stakes. Once the lines are drawn, use caution when digging and always dig within the tolerance zone as defined by local law.

Homeowners with personal underground lines must hire a private utility locator to locate these privately owned lines before starting excavation projects on their property.

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