Beyond the Meter by Glenn Fox

Beyond the Meter By Glenn Fox

The 811 Call Before You Dig system serves the public as a means of damage prevention and the protection of public utilities. When utility operators are notified of construction that is about to occur, they, or their contract locator, are required to mark (with paint, pin flags, stakes, etc.) the approximate location of their buried facilities within a tolerance zone. The tolerance zone is from 18 to 24 inches on either side of the utility, depending on the state. The construction contractor is then required to take extra caution when digging in the vicinity of their marks. But, who marks the privately owned utilities, those that continue beyond the meter, those buried on private properties such as military bases, college campuses, hospitals and industrial sites? This responsibility typically falls on the contractor who needs to employ the services of an experienced firm to accurately designate and/or map all the buried lines within a project area. Damage prevention is equally important here as it is on public rights-of-way, but the issue is rarely discussed.

Utility operators, or their contract locators, typically do not mark facilities beyond the meter or property line since the lines are considered “private” at that point. In addition to the typical utilities (domestic water, electric, gas, telecommunications), on a private facility, other utilities such as chilled water, steam, reclaimed water, gravity sewer systems, cathodic protection lines, and fire protection systems are often in the vicinity of, and/or intermingled with, the public utilities. These lines are often not accurately documented. In addition, it is also common for abandoned pipes and cables as well as unknown conductors to be found during a two person electromagnetic sweep of the site along with the many utilities listed above. These factors make designating the buried facilities on private properties a significant challenge. Contractors, maintenance personnel and engineers need to know where these lines are for construction, routine maintenance and repair purposes, as well as for design. Enter the private locator, the technicians tasked with mapping “the unknown.”

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