Many homes use natural gas as their method of heating and cooking. The gas runs to the home via pipes that are underground and connect to a main pipe from the local energy company. It's common to assume that these pipes in the yard are deeply buried, but in reality they are often only a few inches below the surface.
Gas lines can be as shallow as 12 inches below the surface. Plastic lines need to be at least 18 inches in some areas and require a metal wire to be wrapped around them. This allows a pipe finder to locate the pipe if necessary. The gas lines run to a meter that is normally located on the side of the house.
Utility lines are often disrupted by homeowners who are planting bushes and trees or putting in post holes for a shed or deck foundation. While breaking a water line can create a nuisance, slicing into an electrical or gas line can be life threatening. Accidentally digging up a gas line is highly dangerous to the entire neighborhood. A spark can cause an immediate fire or explosion that can destroy a home.
Before doing any digging deeper than a few inches, it is important to call 811 to have the gas, water and electric lines located and marked. Having the lines located and marked is a nationwide, free service and normally requires at least two to four working days of advance notice. The 811 number supplements the local number that utility companies offer their clients and works the same.
Breaking a Pipe
If you are digging in the yard and notice a rotten-egg smell, you may have punctured or broken a gas line. Leave the area immediately. According to the Consumers Energy website, do not try to locate the leak, use your cell phone in the area, light a match, start a vehicle or try to put out an existing flame. Utility companies take a gas leak very seriously and will quickly have someone out to look over the situation and start a repair.
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