What is your mosts important digging tool? Your phone.

April is National Safe Digging Month, a time when NW Natural (NYSE:NWN) reminds contractors, landscapers and homeowners to call 811 to have underground utilities located before digging.

“Even small projects such as planting a tree or installing a mailbox require a call to 811,” said Scott Gallegos, NW Natural damage prevention supervisor. "We understand that doing a weekend project without a locate service is tempting, but one call could prevent fines, serious injury or worse.”

Third-party dig-ins are the most common cause of damages to natural gas pipelines. The Common Ground Alliance (CGA) reports the estimated total number of damages across the U.S. is up nearly 20 percent, from 317,000 in 2015 to 379,000 in 2016. Within NW Natural’s service area, approximately 700 unintentional damages are recorded each year.

Calling 811 is not only important, it’s the law. Underground line damage is expensive for all involved parties. The CGA reports that associated costs in the U.S. are estimated at $1.5 billion.

Reaching the local utility notification centers in Oregon and Washington is simple. Two business days before the start of a project call 811, register online or use NW Natural’s new safety app to have underground lines marked. More information is available at www.nwnatural.com or http://digsafelyoregon.com.  

If a gas line is accidentally struck, be sure to report it right away. No damage is too small to report; even a gouge or dent could lead to future problems. NW Natural has an innovative program in which first-time offenders learn about safe digging practices and receive a discount on fines received for damaging a natural gas line.  

Always remember to Smell. Go. Let us know. If you smell natural gas, leave the area immediately. Then call us at 800-882-3377 and we will come over and check things out.

More In Lane County