LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX18) — Last year, Lexington gas lines were hit 173 times, according to Columbia Gas.
In 30% of those cases, they say 8-1-1 was not contacted first.
Columbia Gas and the Lexington Fire Department are urging homeowners to call 8-1-1 or go to kentucky811.org before they or a hired construction company put a shovel in the ground on their property. In fact, it is required by state law that you do so two business days beforehand.
"If you're going to put in a new mailbox, if you're planting new boxwoods this spring, if you're putting in a new tree or fence or deck, anything like that, those are all situations where you absolutely must call," Columbia Gas public affairs manager, Lisa Smith, said.
When someone contacts 8-1-1, Columbia Gas will come out and mark with spray paint and/or flags to show where the gas lines are located underground.
That way, people can avoid hitting them as so many already have so far this spring.
Other utility companies will also come and mark where their various lines are as well.
Once those lines are drawn, Columbia Gas said Kentuckians must only hand dig within two feet of them. This is also required by state law.
"It's good to hand dig and expose that line and to know exactly where that line is," Smith said.
It's important to do this yearly because lines underground can shift.
"You don't know, from year after year, if the ground has eroded or exactly how deep those things are," Smith said when talking about the various utility lines underground.
If a gas line is hit, someone could get hurt, service to the entire neighborhood could be disrupted, and/or the person responsible could rack up repair costs and fines if you don't call before you dig.
When one is hit, it requires workers with Columbia Gas to come out to assess and fix the problem. At least 14 Lexington Fire Department firefighters also head to the scene, according to Captain Adam Day.
It is a reality LFD can expect this time of year when people start doing yard work again.
"This time of year, especially when it gets warm outside, those accidents possibly can be more prone to happen and everything," Captain Day said.
If a gas line is hit, stop what you're doing, move a safe distance back, avoid ignition sources, and call 911 and Columbia Gas at 1-800-432-9515.