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Call before you dig

It’s springtime, and that means lots of home improvement projects are taking place around Suffolk.

Many people are making new landscaping features in their yards or planting new flowers, bushes or trees, installing new mailboxes and fences, and other projects that require digging.

Before you dig, however, you’ll want to make sure you have utilities in your yard marked. Doing so could save you, your neighbors and the local utility companies lots of stress, and potentially save fines, property damage and serious injury.

You can call or set it up online and give the operator information about how to contact you, where you are planning to dig and what type of work you will be doing. Utility companies who might have facilities in the area will be notified and will send a locator within two or three working days to mark the approximate location of underground utility lines, according to call811.com.

You can then confirm that all affected utility operators have responded and then do your project in the confidence that you’re not going to hit anything you don’t want to when you dig.

According to call811.com, you should make the call no matter what, even if you think your project is too small to be an issue. Many utilities are buried just a few inches below the ground, the website states. Even digging for simple gardening projects like planting flowers or small shrubs could become a problem if you’re digging in the wrong place.

“Make the call to 811 anytime you’re putting a shovel in the ground to keep yourself and your community safe,” the website states.

Buried utility lines are everywhere, even near the property line and near the street line. That’s why it’s especially important to call even when you’re installing a mailbox or a fence.

If you’re digging in a small area and don’t want your whole yard marked up, you can outline the area in white paint or white flags so that the utilities only mark that part.

You’ll even want to make sure the call is made if there’s a contractor or landscaper doing the project. Don’t assume they’ve done so just because you’ve hired them.

It’s also not safe to assume all is well if the area has been previously marked. Erosion and root system growth can alter the depth or location of buried lines, and new lines may have been laid. It’s important to call each and every time.

You can set up this service by visiting va811.com, calling 811 or 1-800-552-7001.

You’ll need to give 48 hours’ notice — beginning at 7 a.m. the next working day after you call — to allow time for the markings to happen. The markings are valid for 15 working days starting the next working day after you give notice.