Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Shocking Development

When you survey your yard, what do you see? Grass? Trees? Shrubs? During the growing season, maybe a garden plot with squash and tomatoes? Have you ever put much thought into what lies under all that?

My neighbor most assuredly did not.

When he set out to install a fence on his property, he brought in a big powered auger to speed up the work. Beginning at the corner of his yard, he drilled his first post hole. And that's as far as he ever got.

The site of that first hole happened to be dead-center over a buried power line. The auger sliced neatly through the cable, shorting out a transformer and power lines that serviced four households, including his own.

From the neighbor's standpoint, that was bad enough. But the power company employee who came to replace the fried electric cable leading to my house informed me that, because the neighbor neglected to have his buried lines marked before drilling the hole, that neighbor was responsible for all repair costs—including replacing the transformer.

When digging in your yard, it's up to you to protect any buried utility lines on your property. But unless you stood and watched while they were buried, you probably don't have much of a clue as to where all those lines are located.

Chances are, there is a concentration of lines along a "utility right of way" bordering one side of your lot. Lines (electricity, cable TV, phone, etc.) branch off from that and lead to your house, not always following the same path. These lines are usually installed at least a foot or so below the surface, but erosion and grade changes can leave them just inches below ground.

So you don't necessarily need a big power auger to do a lot of damage. A simple garden spade can sever a shallow utility line; certainly, digging deep enough to plant a tree or shrub might.

Before doing any digging on your property, you'd be wise to have all of your buried utility lines marked. This is a free, one-stop service. Simply call 811 or go online at to make arrangements. You'll be happy; your utility companies will be happy.

And while the jaunty little marker flags are still in place, it might be a good idea to make a map of their locations for future reference.

I'm sure my neighbor wishes he'd done that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is so easy to do and saved me a lot of tedious, careful digging to avoid anything that might be buried.