Dominion Energy urges Suffolk to call before digging

Published 11:00 am Friday, April 19, 2024

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April is National Safe Digging Month, and Dominion Energy shares tips for Suffolk residents on proper digging practices. 

Virginia state law’s Underground Damage Utility Prevention Act states that no one can “make or begin any excavation or demolition without first submitting a locate request to the notification center.” As such, residents must call the 811 number before digging to properly notify utilities.

Representing Dominion Energy’s Chuckatuck Office, Supervisor of Operations and Construction Allen Pearce and Underground Lineman Nick Rhoney stopped by the Suffolk Meadows neighborhood to discuss the importance of safe digging.  Rhoney discussed the basics for residents.

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“You want to know where you’re going to be doing your project at, and then you want to call 811, that’s utility, so they can come out and do the marks and make sure you’re not in conflict with power, gas, electric, water, [or] sewer,” Rhoney said. 

For homeowners, contractors, and construction workers alike, digging without planning ahead can pose various problems, such as fines, property damage, and even injury and death.

“We’re all supposed to be a certain depth, but you don’t want to take that chance,”  Rhoney said. “You don’t want to hit your gas line, and they have to cut the whole neighborhood off to repair your gas, or your electric line…811 is a free thing to use – why not utilize it.”

More power lines are being moved underground. Cherise Newsome, spokesperson for Dominion Energy, talked about the ongoing Strategic Underground Program, which celebrates its 10 anniversary this year. Launched in 2014, the data-driven program aims to replace outage-prone overhead electric distribution lines with underground lines. Following research from storm damage caused by Hurricane Isabel and the 2012 derecho, a straight-line wind thunderstorm that caused 1 million customers to lose power in their service area, Newsome says that taking a “more targeted, strategic” approach and placing outage-prone lines underground helps reduce total length of restoration by up to 50 percent.

“Burying these lines, which generally provide electricity to neighborhoods and homes, reduces the number of repairs needed for service restoration following a major storm,” Newsome said. “Since its inception, we’ve undergrounded 2,000 miles of distribution tap lines across our service area. We’re continuing to work on reaching our goal of burying 4,000 miles of our most outage-prone overhead tap lines over the next several years.”

Newsome says that by reducing the number of repair locations following a major event, residents will benefit from the power being restored more quickly.

“Strategic Underground is not our only program aimed at strengthening the electric grid. But because of what’s going underground, we want people to be more aware of this program and stay safe,” she said.

Pearce noted that mechanized equipment is not allowed within two feet of lines. Rhoney also says that despite how simple a digging task can be, ranging from mailboxes to even gardening, it’s still important to call to prevent damage.

“You don’t know how many calls we get from people just replacing a post on their fence. They’re like ‘We just put it in the same hole,’ but the old post is shallower than the new post. They hit their power line in a little bit of time, they lose their lights,” he said. “No matter how simple the task is, you can still damage a gas line, water line, power line, anything.”

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Editor’s note: Updated third passage at 11:01 a.m., Friday, April 19 to reflect accuracy.