Who is responsible for marking gas lines before digging starts?


DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — The big unanswered question from Wednesday deadly explosion in Durham was if the underground gas line was marked and, if so, how was it done. 

The city of Durham says Fiber Technologies Networks had an active and valid permit and license to do cable laying. 

RELATED: View the permit and license for the cable work (pdf document)

The city says that the company hired Utilis Engineering to submit all permits for excavating.

Right now, the city believes Utilis hired a subcontractor to do the actual digging, but city officials say they don’t know that for sure.

Durham Deputy City Manager Beau Ferguson says are trying to determine who the subcontractor was if there was one. 

Here in North Carolina, the law requires excavators and utilities to go through the NC 811 Notification Center in order to dig safely.

“The utilities are members of NC 811 and we communicate those excavation requests to them,” said Louis Panzer who is the executive director of NC 811.

Last year the agency handled over 2 million requests from excavators who wanted to know where utility lines were buried

Marking utility lines is standardized.

For example, gas lines are marked in yellow.

Once the line is marked the agency creates what officials call a “tolerance zone” — two feet on either side of that line and anyone digging has to watch out for that area.

“That zone has to be observed with hand digging until you have exposed and visually see the facility before any mechanized equipment can go inside of that zone,” said Panzer.

Who is responsible for marking underground utility lines? 

It turns out it’s the ultimate responsibility of the utility to make sure their underground lines are marked — but they don’t have to do it themselves.

“Some (utilities) contract that work out and some do it in-house,” said Panzer. “It depends on the company.”

CBS 17 took that question to the president of Dominion Energy, asking who marked the lines. 

Was it a private contractor or was it done in-house? 

“It’s all part of the investigation,” said Rodney Blevins, who is the president and CEO of Dominions Southeast Energy Group. “We have a preliminary assessment and ours would agree with what you’ve heard from the state that the lines were marked properly at the time of the excavation.”

“The locator who marked this particular facility was a contractor we occasionally use to supplement our in-house locating team,” Blevins added.

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