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Thursday, April 19, 2018

PUC Marks ‘Safe Digging Month’; Stresses Safe Practices and Highlights New Focused Effort to Reduce Damage to Underground Infrastructure

April 19, 2018

HARRISBURG – In conjunction with National Safe Digging Month, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today reminded consumers, businesses and contractors of the importance of identifying underground infrastructure before digging – at the job-site or at home.

“While warmer spring weather still eludes much of the state, this is the time of year when construction and home improvement projects increase, and safety needs to be an integral part of every project,” said Commissioner John F. Coleman Jr. during today’s PUC public meeting. “Underground utility lines are often ‘out of sight and out of mind,’ which is why it is essential to contact the Pennsylvania One Call (PA One Call) system by calling 8-1-1 before any excavation work, to ensure that lines are properly located and marked.”

Coleman noted that there are approximately 6,000 ‘hits’ every year on underground infrastructure across Pennsylvania – which means that a pipeline or other vital utility system is struck once every 20 minutes during the average workday – and each of those incidents poses a risk to contractors, utility workers and bystanders, along with the possibility of service interruptions, environmental damage and costly repairs to damaged lines.

State law requires contractors and residents to contact the PA One Call system at least three business days prior to excavation – triggering alerts to all utilities within an intended digging area and prompting them to mark where their facilities are located. Pennsylvanians can dial 8-1-1 to connect with the One Call system, while non-Pennsylvania residents can dial 1-800-242-1776.

Governor Wolf and numerous municipalities across Pennsylvania have proclaimed April to be Pennsylvania One Call System Safe Digging Month, underscoring the invaluable nature of this service.

Act 50 of 2017 enhanced the state’s One Call Law, eliminating exemptions that allowed some facility owners to not participate in the program and avoid marking their lines, or allowed some excavation to occur without contacting PA One Call. The statute also shifted enforcement authority to the PUC and established a new Damage Prevention Committee, modeled after successful programs in other states.  The overreaching goal of the PUC enforcement program is to reduce the number of ‘hits’ to underground lines.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.

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