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Locates - private contractors

Discussion in 'Safety Issues' started by JPSouth, Jul 21, 2018.

  1. JPSouth

    JPSouth Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2016
    Messages:
    45
    Location:
    SW Montana
    Thought I would pass along an experience I had 2 weeks ago for a heads up. Was hired to dig in an 1200 square foot addition to an existing home built about 1995. The job was stalled a couple days so the utility company could run a new electric service as the old 3-wire 4/0 passed underneath a corner of the proposed construction - code and common sense says that isn't allowed. They wound up digging in an all new conduited line from the box to a new service box.

    It was of course quite apparent where the new line was, and supposedly the old line was de-energized, effectively abandoning it. As per insurance, etc., I went ahead and called in a new locate because CYA, everything except the electric was on the other side of the house. When I showed up to start the job, the old paint line was marked as energized and there were no locate flags or paint on the new line whatsoever. WTH. Called the utility's hot line and asked what was up and if they'd buried/connected the new line but not energized it (meter was running so I knew one of the leads was hot, and I didn't think to bring my inductive voltage tester). They said someone would be out toot sweet to assess what was going on. He showed up along with a rep from the sub whose employee had done the locate.

    A pretty stormy exchange of words went on between the two for a good 15 minutes, and it finally wound up that the employee had simply just re-painted the locate she'd done prior to the new line being run. Her story was she'd run out of batteries on the locate device and "knew" where things were at, anyway, so just went ahead and re-marked, apparently missing the brand new trench line heading onto a new meter on the house. Properly chastised and thoroughly cowed, the locate company dude slunk to his car and sped off. The utility boss looked at the line I exposed and said, "Hell, I wouldn't have dared cut that - you were right to call." It was, in fact, de-energized, but I had no desire to turn into a Christmas tree on a hunch. He went ahead and cut it, so I was off the hook.

    At any rate, he also told me that lately they were having a real problem with subcontractor locate companies doing sub-par work, and were seeing an increasing amount of breaches on electrical and gas service lines. In fact, the wires wound up being about 6 feet to the left of where the employee had run the paint line. To be fair, it wasn't entirely her fault as for whatever reason, when they originally buried the line they made a big question mark out of 8' of excess before turning the corner into the old service box - I found it where it made the curve.

    A month and a half ago, I snapped a 6-pair phone line 65' away from the locate line. Same job I exposed a gas line buried just beneath a sidewalk I was tearing out - it was live and over 75' away from where the locate line was. It was not a private install - utility company's logo and tracer wire was on it. The phone company allowed it was theirs and said it would be a week before they could get out there (remote area). The homeowner gave me a ride to town so I could get UG/weatherproof stuff to fix it and had him up and running before I left for the day. The homeowner called the utility company out to properly bury the gas line; they were fairly astounded that it got missed by the locate.

    I figure everyone's careful here, and may have run into this before. Thought it was noteworthy as the utility rep stated that their repair crews were getting much busier than they wanted.
     
    funwithfuel likes this.
  2. Ronsii

    Ronsii Senior Member

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    Occupation:
    s/e Heavy equipment operator
    Location:
    Western Washington
    We find stuff missed by locates all the time... always have and probably always will ;)


    A few years ago we called for locates on a small job that we were putting in a new driveway access for a 60~ year old house... with a gas meter on it ;) Locate showed up and painted No GAs... so we thought maybe it is fed from behind the house in the alley... called it in again... and they painted No Gas again!!! Hmmmm, there has to be a line somewhere... so called it in again and was there when locator showed up so we pointed out the meter to him and about 30 minutes later he tracked us down and said yep there is a line and it's right below the driveway we were putting in, so started digging and found the 1/2" poly gas line about a foot down... of course we were dropping grade about 18 inches so had to drop the line first!!!

    Anyway the point of my story is always do your own recon for locates just so you're a bit better informed, it can save you some hassle in the long run :)
     
    CM1995 likes this.
  3. redneckracin

    redneckracin Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2010
    Messages:
    349
    Occupation:
    Civil Engineer
    Location:
    Pittsburgh
    I put in one calls in pa all the time and utilities are either to busy or just don't have good maps for the design work I do. One nice thing is with the laws in pa, if you have a valid one call ticket and abide by the setbacks, you are held harmless except for your own life. If you catch a 3 phase electric line or rupture a 4" poly natural gas line, whatever happens happens. I love when we get a hand drawn map from 50 years ago that doesn't even have any current landmarks.
     
  4. JPSouth

    JPSouth Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2016
    Messages:
    45
    Location:
    SW Montana
    Previously, I worked for a heavy construction outfit, we did a lot of subdivision work, street and roadway upgrade and repair. It was purely amazing what we'd find for utility runs, either not showing up on locates or any map. Some of the stuff wasn't that old, either. One memorable afternoon, we were in the middle of primary excavation for 2 new lanes on the main road into town. Locate was done, laborers began the potholing process to find it buried just a foot below the surface. It was a 6" main line. Power company pickups started showing up from every point on the compass for that one.
     
  5. Wes J

    Wes J Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2016
    Messages:
    444
    Location:
    Peoria, IL
    A few years back a directional boring company drilled right through the 3 phase supply to my shop. Apparently, the locate person looked at my service entrance and look at a small transformer about 30 feet away and literally just connected the dots. However, that transformer actually feeds a marina several hundred yards from my shop and has nothing to do with me.

    Similar story a few years later with a contractor digging in a new drain for a parking lot. Dug right through the primary that feeds the whole industrial park. Utility back fed the electrical supply some way and had power restored in about 12 hours, but they took almost a week to fix the damage that was done.

    They had called in the locate, but noting was marked.
     
  6. Raildudes dad

    Raildudes dad Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2007
    Messages:
    220
    Location:
    Grand Rapids MI
    We don't have a lot of locate issues in our area with the utilities that use their own employees to do the locating. However the large telecommunication company with 3 initials insists on using locate companies. I was in a MISS DIG meeting with the utilities and municipalities and even the other utilities were pretty vocal about the poor locates. They finally got smarter and raised the pay for the locate guys to keep the same ones. The turnover was unreal for a while.
    The only good thing about the situation is we are only cutting phone and fiber lines, not gas or electric.
    In defense of the locate company employees, the phone installation companies are horrid about burying where they are supposed to be and even their burying methods. Shame on the phone company for not inspecting their installation contractors and shame on the highway authority (who I work for) for not checking on them either.
    2 weeks ago I got a call from one of our ditching foremen to come out and look at a locate. Nice pretty rows of orange flags in the corn field out beyond the 33' ROW line. Marked from the pedestal in the ROW out to those lines. Excavator is cleaning the ditch at about 22-23 feet from centerline. Get to the pedestal and surprise, 2 lines in the bottom of the ditch. They are supposed to buried at 30-32 feet from the centerline. Now we in the hand dig mode. 1 is 6 inches under the sod and goes thru the field entrance culvert and dead ends just past the culvert. The second is about 2 inches deep in the grass and goes up and over the field entrance where it's buried 3 inches below the gravel then continues on 2 inches deep in the grass (At least a couple young guys pulling on it worked to "uncover it" :) ). Goes down the ditch another 5-600 feet until it goes underground across the road. Not a single flag or spot of paint on the 2 lines.
    I sent a report to the Claims Manager for the utility explaining 1) it really slows us down when we "find" their lines this way 2) if we damage your facility, we are not paying, and 3) this is a regular occurrence so something needs to be done. He's been good about taking care of the damage bills. We'll see if anything comes about #3
     
    JPSouth likes this.
  7. thepumpguysc

    thepumpguysc Senior Member

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    Occupation:
    Master Inj.Pump rebuilder
    Location:
    Sunny South Carolina
    When they were building the C-17 hangers here in Charleston, abunch of subs were hired to do the work. NON-military personnel.. They were building it on/between the Air Base & the Chas. International airport.
    Whats the 1st thing that needs to be established?? Underground cables..
    Guess whats a National Security issue?? THE UNDERGROUND CABLES.. Lol..
    The Base wouldn't release the information.!!! Lol Set them back MONTHS before it got released..
     
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  8. Jumbo

    Jumbo Senior Member

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    Occupation:
    retired
    Location:
    Black Diamond WA
    For the most part, locates are only as good as the information provided. A digging contractor digging duct ban for me pulled up a 2000 pair lead jacketed cable where no located were marked. After a few hours (late Friday afternoon as usual,) it got sorted out, nobody had a plan that went back into the 1950s when the cable was installed. I happened to have a pretty good idea what was happening as I was raised in the neighborhood where we were working. We were digging through an abandoned street and it was buried in the old ROW.
     
  9. dirty4fun

    dirty4fun Senior Member

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    Location:
    N. IL
    It seems if you dig you can find just how poorly things are located. I was digging for a foundation and the dirt caved in on the outside of the wall. Did some hand digging and found the primary going to the transformer was not marked at all. 12,500 volts. Moved the hole over a few feet and the last bucket brought out all the runway lights for the airport. The next day the manager for the airport came out told me I couldn't of hit the wires because he has a map of where everything is located. After showing him the wires, I mentioned that his map might be more useful in the bathroom. If in doubt most of the time I get my locate devise out two pieces of wire bent to a 90 degrees and walk the area.
     
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  10. terex herder

    terex herder Well-Known Member

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    Nov 11, 2017
    Messages:
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    Location:
    Kansas
    My involvement was more of a bystander, but a local car wreck broke an electric pole. The utility company came out to change the pole. They reuse the same hole so they don't have to call dig safe. They broke a communications line anyway. It seems when the communications line was installed, they bored a driveway, and bored through the base of the electric pole next to the drive as well.
     
  11. Ronsii

    Ronsii Senior Member

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    Occupation:
    s/e Heavy equipment operator
    Location:
    Western Washington
    We called in a few locates the other day, all of them were in the same warehouse complex.. 5 areas to be located around 20 x 40 feet average... so we check on the locates a few days later before the job is going to start and 3 of them have the typical 'No PSE,No elec, No water..etc... the other two nothing painted.... mind you they're only a few hundred feet away from some of the ones that got paint... So call up 'one call' and they basically tell us we have to call the individual utilities to tell them they missed a spot.... I always thought the law was we call 'one call' and they take care of it :) ???
     
  12. Birken Vogt

    Birken Vogt Charter Member

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    How are you to know who the utility is that serves the area anyway, just because they are in one place does not mean there is not somebody else in the other spot.
     
  13. old-iron-habit

    old-iron-habit Senior Member

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    Retired Cons't. Supt./Hospitals
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    Smart utilities come back and update the utilities with GPS locates when they are exposed. Last job I did before I retired that also put the elevation on the maps in real world elevations. They and I both agree that this program will save them countless headaches in the future as more of their utilities gets mapped. Surface changes happen all the time. 6 ft. deep don't mean much when someone lowered the elevation 5 ft. 10 years ago.
     
  14. old-iron-habit

    old-iron-habit Senior Member

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    It's up to One call to notify anyone that has any utilities in the general bigger area. The ones that have nothing in the area clear via e-mail here. The utilities generally do not do locates on internal utilities owned by the land owner such as at plants, hospitals, schools, etc. They only mark there stuff coming in to where the owner takes over. Our local Embridge refinery and pipeline company does not allow any excavator to work in there facilities. All excavation is bid to be done by vacuum truck. Its way cheaper for them than dealing with a broken utility and leak.
     
  15. Ronsii

    Ronsii Senior Member

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    s/e Heavy equipment operator
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    Western Washington
    In the areas we were in they should have marked the sanitary main( at least),primary power, fire lines,gas and comm... they don't usually mark water because most of it is private systems they usually mark all comms and gas... in this case it was obvious the gas and sewer guys didn't locate - the only 'No utilities' paint was from the comms guy and there is a main gas line about 20 foot to the west of our dig but no yellow paint anywhere.
     
  16. Birken Vogt

    Birken Vogt Charter Member

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    Yeah, I was referring to the fact that Ronsii in post #11 was told by One Call to go back to the individual utilities to tell them to come back and finish their job basically, but what I was saying was it is not up to the excavator to know that just because utility A is present in dig 1 that it might not be utility B in dig 2 even if they were the same service such as communications.

    All the locates we get are really lame, vague and easy to damage marks as well. It seems like the contractors that do major road or pipeline work get good marks, everybody else gets a really halfway job done on their project.
     
    old-iron-habit likes this.
  17. AzIron

    AzIron Well-Known Member

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    Jun 15, 2016
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    Location:
    Az
    I can't complain to much but its 50 50 if the sewer tap is ever marked on a house depends on the guy doing the painting weather it's good or vague

    Usually tho in residential they paint the offset from curb on the curb so if its 2 weeks later you still get a decent idea but I have dug up a bunch of stuff that was never marked
     
  18. old-iron-habit

    old-iron-habit Senior Member

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    That response was real lame when they told him to go run them down themselves. I think I would tell the utility that One Call did not give a sh*t.