NV Energy staged a gas dig-in Tuesday using carbon dioxide and a 3/4-inch line to show the sights and sounds of what happens when a gas line is hit with a shovel.
The demonstration at its Ohm Place facility in Reno was held in conjunction with National 811 Day, which takes place each year on Aug. 11. It’s a reminder for homeowners, landscapers and contractors to make a free call to 8-1-1 at least two days before digging.
This includes those who plant gardens in their yards.
Jesse Murray, NV Energy vice president of gas delivery, estimated between 50 and 60 underground gas lines are hit per year and each incident can affect as many as 200 customers.
Standard utility burial is currently 36 inches but all it takes is a hand shovel to cause an accident, Murray said.
“Anybody could inadvertently hit an underground utility and cause a significant hazard to the public,” Murray said. “You should never assume utilities are at a certain depth. Certainly modern utilities are buried to certain depths, but understand that utilities have been buried over a century. Combine that with ground settling and other natural events, you can never count on utilities being a certain depth.”
In the event of an accident, Reno Fire Chief Dave Cochran said his department responds with more than 20 people.
“There’s the commitment of resources we have. If we can avoid this, we don’t have to send out the apparatus and personnel to mitigate this,” Cochran said. “The other thing is if gas finds an ignition source, it can create a fire. That in turn can create a fire that spreads to a house, the brush, or the wild land.”
When calling 811, crews can visit the site and determine whether there are gas, water, communications, or electrical lines in the area.
Nevada law allows the state to fine citizens $1,000 per day and fine contractors $2,500 per day for not following guidelines.
In the video below, NV Energy simulates what happens when a CO2 tank ignites a fire after being hit from digging.
Video: Carla O’Day