Atlanta Gas Light Company Program Reduces Pipeline Disruptions
June 25, 2003
Atlanta Gas Light Company (AGLC) reminds contractors, builders and homeowners to "Call Before You Dig." The service is free, and it protects lives and property.
By promoting the safety program, AGLC has seen incidences of damage to its 55,584-mile pipeline system decline by 36.4 percent from a high of 6,968 in 1999 to 4,431 in 2002.
Damages declined another 9.8 percent in the first quarter of 2003, according to Colleen Heflin, AGLC manager of damage prevention. During that period, there were 804 incidences in comparison to 891 for the same period of January through March 2002.
The company offers a free pipeline locating service through the Georgia Utilities Protection Center (UPC) to anyone, from commercial developers erecting high-rises to homeowners installing mailboxes. The service locates and marks natural gas pipelines hidden underground that could be damaged through excavation.
"From January to March of this year, 39.2 percent of the damages to AGLC facilities were caused by people who did not call to request to have our pipelines located and marked prior to excavating," said Heflin.
A consequence of metro Atlanta's recent growth has been that contractors and builders sometimes accidentally cut natural gas lines as well as other utilities such as water, telephones and cable. In addition to commercial builders, the AGLC program also targets homeowners and municipal workers, Heflin added. She encourages homeowners to call UPC before installing sprinkler systems, mailboxes, fences or landscaping.
Not only is the service free, but it is also the law when using mechanized equipment such as a trencher or backhoe, Heflin said. Violators can be fined up to $10,000 per incident under the Georgia Utility Facility Protection Act.
Heflin said AGLC coordinates closely with the Georgia Public Service Commission (GPSC) and UPC to educate the public, particularly developers and excavators, via free "Call Before You Dig" safety seminars, brochures, posters and other literature. She is currently working with the GPSC and UPC to update an educational field manual.
In addition, AGLC has seven "damage prevention specialists" on staff who educate local officials, building contractors and other excavators about the importance of locating utilities before construction begins. AGLC instigated its damage prevention program during the 1999 building boom in metro Atlanta by working jointly with the GPSC.
"The average cost to repair a pipeline is about $850," Heflin said. "But the cost in terms of lost time and productivity and the inconvenience to the public when there is a natural gas damage is much greater, and a damage can be dangerous as well. This program does not just protect our pipelines. It also protects the public and our employees."
The number for the Georgia Utilities Protection Center is 800.282.7411, and its website is www.gaupc.com.