You might dig gardening, but check with PUD before you do

Underground electrical lines and equipment aren’t easily seen, the utility district warns.

EVERETT — Spring is a time to dig, to build, to plant, to grow.

The thing is, there are some perilous secrets in the earth that can create inconvenience and cause injury.

It’s why the Snohomish County Public Utility District is reminding its customers to check ahead to prevent accidentally hitting an underground utility line.

Such encounters happen more often than folks might think.

The PUD had about 100 incidents when people uncovered or hit underground electrical lines and equipment over the past year, said Neil Neroutsos, a spokesman for the agency.

About 40 percent of those cases resulted in a power outage.

And, in some cases, a bill.

“Not only does this pose a safety issue for customers, but if they fail to have the lines marked — or if they didn’t use the location information correctly to avoid hitting utilities — the customers are responsible for covering the PUD’s cost of repairs,” Neroutsos said.

Safety is the big concern.

During the past decade, there have been several cases in the county in which construction workers or other people have come into contact with live electrical lines. Some resulted in injury or death, Neroutsos said. Some lines were above ground; some underground.

In 2014, for instance, a construction worker was killed while in a ditch as part of an expansion project at Swedish/Edmonds hospital. The worker’s jackhammer came into contact with buried power lines. Two contractors were fined more than $50,000.

“It’s critical that our customers be aware of the dangers of coming into contact with the electrical system in order to keep their families safe,” Neroutsos said.

PUD customers should use the “Call before you dig” hotline at 811 at least two working days ahead of time before starting a digging project of more than 12 inches deep, including landscaping, remodeling and fencing.

Staff working on the 811 hotline provide locations of lines that serve power, gas, water, sewer and telephone utilities along the right of way of property. The PUD owns and maintains underground services on private property for single-family homes and will mark lines up to customers’ meters.

The hotline is a free service and available in all states. Staff has a lot to track.

There are more than 20 million miles of underground utilities in the United States. That figure equates to more than one football field’s length of buried utilities for every man, woman and child in the United States, according to the Common Ground Alliance, a utilities trade group.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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