By Brent Saltzman
Louisiana 811

Working together is the theme for this issue of our magazine, and I’m personally a strong proponent of doing just that! Recently, I had the opportunity to provide a safety presentation to the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors of Louisiana (PHCC). I value our relationship with this organization and I feel confident that this group of folks feels likewise.

As I typically do when speaking to the plumbers in the audience, I bring up the issue of cross bore awareness. For those of you readers who aren’t familiar with this term, it essentially refers to the unintentional drilling of a new underground utility/facility through an existing underground utility/facility. This results in an intersection of the utilities, compromising the integrity of either or both utilities or underground structures. Unfortunately, this occurs more frequently than you would imagine, and in some instances, can be extremely dangerous and sometimes fatal.

The most common occurrence happens when directional drilling in a service line to a customer’s home and a sewer line is compromised. Unbeknownst to the operator of the bore rig, the sewer pipe is bored through, ultimately resulting in a clogged sewer. The clog may not occur immediately but it’ll eventually happen, sometimes months or even years later. If the service line happens to be a natural gas pipeline or an electric line, well, the situation becomes a real problem.

Educating plumbers on this issue is paramount to the safety of not only plumbers but homeowners and the community. We, along with many of our member companies, want plumbers to know that if they unknowingly strike a gas line while cutting through a sewerage blockage with a rotary device, it can result in natural gas entering the sewer system and migrating into a home. Needless to say, this can create a very dangerous situation. But what if it’s an electric line causing the blockage? You guessed it – the plumber could be electrocuted!

All of this leads to my original point – working well together is paramount. Our message to plumbers is to highly encourage them to call in an emergency locate request when a cross bore is suspected. Don’t attempt to clear the blockage and ask for assistance from the utility owners that may be involved. Furthermore, if you suspect or smell a gas leak, do the following:

  • Leave and instruct others to leave the area immediately
  • Call 911
  • Contact the gas company
  • Do not operate any power equipment
  • Eliminate potential ignition sources
  • Do not tamper with gas lines, meters, valves, etc.

Working well together, having open lines of communication and digging safely are all things we like to promote at Louisiana 811. Our hope is that all of our stakeholders do likewise because at the end of the day, our life may depend on it!