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locates not proper and hit gas line

Discussion in 'General Industry Questions' started by robchetry69, May 12, 2016.

  1. robchetry69

    robchetry69 New Member

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    Hello all...

    I am a home builder and was doing digging with excavator...I had locates done and where I was digging there were no markings..

    Anyway..we hit a gas main and the utilities company are saying I am responsible. .

    Do I have any ground to stand on?
    There are saying I'm responsible for $16000 ..

    I am in Toronto Canada if that makes any difference. .

    Thanks
     
  2. 390eric

    390eric Senior Member

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    Not sure the regulations in your area but I work for the gas company. It's 18 inches on either side of the mark so 3 ft total We never give depths but just a location. Anything outside that 3 ft it's on us. Unless you didn't have the area marked to be one called. But you say you did.
     
  3. lantraxco

    lantraxco Senior Member

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    If you had the locates done and the area you were digging in was within the lot lines or boundaries, I would say fight it. Of course they'll try to charge you for it, doesn't mean they didn't screw the pooch and are trying to cover it up. Good luck.

    Thirty years ago I worked for an outfit that was doing some work on a golf course, no utilities, said so in the bid sheets. Oh, except there's a 6" stainless line buried and the brush has grown over the marker signs. Super in the excavator decided to pothole a spot to bury some concrete he took out, dented the top of that line... carrying jet fuel from a tank farm on the river over to the supply tanks at the airport. There was some excitement. Would have been a lot more if he'd actually cracked the line. Mistakes happen.
     
  4. CM1995

    CM1995 Administrator

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    Welcome to the Forums robchetry69.

    I don't know the line locating regulations in Canada but here in Alabama if I have a valid line locate number I can start digging whether there are marks on the ground or not. However if we're in a location that has known buried utilities we don't go in like cowboys either.

    Did you take any pictures of the area before or afterward? I can't stress enough the importance of pictures of the marked area prior to digging if it's a tight space.

    I've hit many unmarked service lines over time and hadn't had to pay for one because I had pictures, a current locate number and the marks were still on the ground.

    Take pictures of the site if you haven't already and lawyer up, $16K is a bill big enough to warrant legal representation if you have a current locate, it wasn't marked and they intend on pursuing it.

    We humans lack X-ray vision while digging so we rely on accurate locates to tell us where utilities are located.
     
  5. Welder Dave

    Welder Dave Senior Member

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    It might be a 30 second call to lawyer who deals with this kind of thing. If you called to have the utilities located and they missed one, it's their problem not yours. Did they give you a receipt/document showing they were contacted and marked the utilities?
     
  6. robchetry69

    robchetry69 New Member

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    Thanks for the feedback everyone..

    Yes I have all paperwork concerning locate
     
  7. CableDW10cat

    CableDW10cat Active Member

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    I had a locate last week, took the driller all over showing him all the pipelines in the area, and made sure he understood none of them were mine. Drilling was done in between two pipelines that arent on any of my maps (dating back to 1931) and nobody else that I know of showed up to do any locates. Sometimes its just damn scary whats under the ground.
     
  8. movindirt

    movindirt Senior Member

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    Thats the same for us here, we have to pothole at least 18" back on either side, if we find it with the machine inside that 3' swath its our fault. With our local locate service when we call it in we have to wait 48 hours before any digging can start, if there is no marks on the ground after that 48 hours then its not my problem.
     
  9. dporter

    dporter Active Member

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    Was your locate complete? And was it current? If you did not wait for all of your locators to complete their locate marking, you are on your own and are responsible no matter what you damaged. If you are out of date even by one day you are responsible even if the line was not on the locate.

    I am also in Toronto and operate under the same rules.
     
  10. 390eric

    390eric Senior Member

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    It's 3 days in PA and supposed to be re done every so many days. Can't remember that number though. And obviously that depends on the project. We find stuff all the time no one had a clue was there.

    When I was doing site work we had some let's say not to smart operators but needed the seats filled. One in a hoe and another in a dozer grading up to the hoe. Now this site had 3 different transmission lines on it that were known and they were supposed to be in the clear where they were grading They both came over to the boss and said there is a layer of rock about 18 inches thick the whole length of the cut. Yep turned out they were both prying and digging on another transmission line that no one knew about or claimed ownership too. Thankfully it was some damn strong pipe
     
  11. old-iron-habit

    old-iron-habit Senior Member

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    I broke a neighbors service gas line when digging a trench to change my electrical service from overhead to underground about 15 years ago. I also got billed by the gas company. I had a proper locate and the line was well outside the locate and on my property, instead of in the utility easement along the property edge where they marked it. I responded to their bill with a certified letter sent to the district General Manager telling them the truth and recommended they get there line off my property and into the easement, or properly compensate me for being on my property. Incidently the line was only buried two inches deep mostly by pine needles and old leaves. They never contacted me back but a crew was on site 4 days later installing a new line to the neighbor following the easemment. An older worker on the crew told me that 20 some years earlier they were to install that line in on a cold wintery Friday with freezing tempuratures and simply laid the soft copper line on the surface thru my woods taking the direct path as the neighbor needed heat. He said they were a month behind on his install date and they didn't have time to bury it proper. They got sent elsewhere on Monday and never came back to do the job right. He told me he thought about that line every time he had drove by in the last 20 years. He said he mentioned it to his foreman many times, but they never were giving time to go complete the job. I never ever did hear from the office and never got another bill either. If you were outside the marks I would respond by certified letter to the manager telling them they billled in error and that they should take advantage of the oppurtunity to correct there drawings now that they know where the utility is. They probably don't know the line was broke outside the locates.
     
  12. pondo

    pondo Well-Known Member

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    Unfortunately , Standard Operating Procedures is to always blame excavator and make them defend themselves .
    If you admit guilt no one in their company gets s**t

    Is the $16 000 from Tssa (gov inspector) or local utility ?

    If from local utility
    They hope your lawyer will ask for $20 k retainer and you do the math that your $4k ahead to pay bill.

    Triple check you followed all rules, if you did , reply with see you in court . ... they will also do the math ; at $1000 p/ hr they only have 16 hr.... not enough to cover to start court.

    unfortunately , that does does stop them from sending standard threating letters and phone calls hoping to strong arm u into paying....
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2016
  13. bobcat1

    bobcat1 Well-Known Member

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    Standard wait time for locates seems to bounce back and forth between 5 and 7 business days with Ontario One Call service. Listen to what they say on the phone, record it if you have to. They have really refined what they say to lay just about all responsibility on the person doing the excavating. The utilities can take longer to do their locates and not all utilities use the One Call service. Once you receive you ticket request sheet, You have to do a walk around to confirm that any services not listed on the ticket that are on the property need to be contacted for their locates. It is all about the paper work. If you don't have a clearance certificate or confirmation of a locate and marks or flags on the ground don't start digging. We make 3 copies of all locates, one package must be in the excavator[TSSA requirement], other 2 in office and fore mans pickup( last 2 are optional). I worked for Union Gas for several years doing emergency excavating for line cuts and have seen both sides of the fence on this topic. Get used to this as a visit from TSSA is not pleasant( I dont know where they got all their power from!!!).There are guide lines for locates that are not being done properly but it is a fight to clear your self. This topic can become rather long but you have to learn all the fine details if you are going to be digging in Ontario and yes, I would be getting a lawyer.
     
  14. old-iron-habit

    old-iron-habit Senior Member

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    A utility company that is not part of the One Call should Not be in business in my book. Any competent excavator would call if they knew utilities were on the property that were not marked. But, to try to hold an excavator responsible and for him to be expected to know if there is buried utilities on a site that he has never been to before. In any event in this case if what the original poster said is true, he did his due diligence and had the locate, had the paper work cleared, and hit the line ouside of the marking limits. To say he should be potholing to verify the lines are outside his dig area is completely BS. My local utilities don't want you near them if you don't have to be. If they are unsure they will mark it as such and find it themself. The gas company is at fault and should be fined for corruption for trying to bill him. There is only one God and it is not the gas company. OK off my soapbox.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 13, 2016
  15. bobcat1

    bobcat1 Well-Known Member

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    I am not taking sides here but any competent excavator would look at a site before he even showed up with any equipment. This is the process that has to be followed in Ontario and you call for a clearance no matter where you work. We even call for locates to do drainage work in a 100 acre field due to wind projects burying collection lines cross country instead of the road side right of way.To answer the OPs question would take looking at all his paper work and his work time frame to understand where the liability resides in this situation hence legal council. Sometimes we daylight the cables and lines just to confirm the locates are accurate. The process of due diligence involves site assessments and hydro vac exc. if necessary and the added cost that comes with it .Simple drain cleaning has become an issue with cross bores from utilities . A court room is not where you want to spend your money or time.
     
  16. Raildudes dad

    Raildudes dad Senior Member

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    I process these claims from the utilities for my employer, a county highway department. Our foremen get tired of me repeating take photos, take photos, take photos. With smart phones, it's easy. I tell them to take lots of photos of all the markings with recognizable objects, poles, pedestals, trees etc before you even think about digging. If you damage anything, take even more. No exploring with the bucket, that's what the round point shovel is for :)

    I've beaten quite a few claims with good photo documentation including one where it sure looked like someone added markings after we did the damage. Utility wouldn't admit it but it sure appeared their contracted staker returned to the scene.

    Michigan has it where MISSDIG requires the utilities to positive respond on line. I tell our foreman to check and make sure everyone has responded before we show up on site to dig. Works pretty good since they can check on line for an all clear from utility if no marks.
     
  17. winterax

    winterax Active Member

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    Welcome to the wonderful world of due diligence. What would a reasonable person have done in your circumstance. You did your first calls, and I'm assuming you told them where you were digging and marked on the property and have the e-mail they sent you stating such. The ticket should have stated a plus or minus distance from the utility, if you were on the inside of their limit well.................
     
  18. Abscraperguy

    Abscraperguy Senior Member

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    Was on a crew that hit a Saskpower line once. They suddenly tried to tell me their locate is only good for 3 or 4 ft on either side of the mark. The report had none of what I said, it was all their own interpretation. They were some of the most arrogant utility personnel I've ever dealt with although some of the Atco guys in Alberta run them some competition.

    On the other hand our local telephone company (Telus) won't mark properly. They just say if you hit it call us and we'll fix it. On a 4 mile road widening project we hit the one line about 4 times and no bill at all.
     
  19. Welder Dave

    Welder Dave Senior Member

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    Easier to fix than to admit they don't know exactly where they put their own lines.
     
  20. lantraxco

    lantraxco Senior Member

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    Down here it's all installed by lowest bid subs, the spec is "keep it somewhere in the right of way if you can"