New radio campaign highlights gas pipeline damage and resulting fine from not contacting 811

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Beginning January 28 and running four weeks, the following message will run on radio stations throughout the West Palm Beach area: An excavator was recently fined by the State of Florida for not calling 811 before digging and damaging a buried gas line. Don’t let this happen to you, always call 811 before you dig. Visit http://www.sunshine811.com.

This message was prompted after a Final Order was issued May 15, 2018, imposing a $15,000 civil penalty on Medalist Building Group, LLC, for violating Section 556.107(1) (a), F.S. and causing an incident. The law is the Underground Facility Damage Prevention and Safety Act, Chapter 556, Florida Statutes.

On the morning of January 8, 2018, an excavator attempted to remove a tree from an area with no underground facility locate marks. While digging, the trackhoe ruptured a six-inch underground gas-distribution main owned and operated by TECO Peoples Gas.

The incident resulted in property damage and service-restoration costs no less than $127,000. Plus, there were service outages at places that probably couldn't afford to have them: two hospitals, four nursing homes, a fire station, schools, a correctional facility, a church, businesses and residences.

“This gas-distribution main line damage, all of the inconveniences and the resulting $15,000 fine could have been avoided,” states Mark Sweet, Sunshine 811 Executive Director. “All the excavator needed to do was call Sunshine 811 at 811 to notify utility companies that own underground facilities of the digging he was planning to do.”

Provision already in Place

Sunshine 811 has a provision built into its system to warn excavators when they are near a gas line with the potential to cause costly damage and casualties. That provision is the designation High Priority Subsurface Installation (HPSI).

Facility owners use this for underground transmission or distribution pipelines used to transport any gas, refined petroleum product or hazardous/highly volatile liquid such as anhydrous ammonia or carbon dioxide. The key here is, the facility must be deemed critical by the operator of the pipeline and is identified as an HPSI.

When an excavator is digging within 15 feet of an HPSI facility, positive response code 2C is sent to that excavator. The code requires excavators to contact the HPSI facility owner or operator with the excavation or demolition start date and time.

TECO Peoples Gas had designated its the damaged gas main as HPSI. A simple call to 811 would have notified Medalist of the HPSI, setting actions in motion to prevent this incident.