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Call 811 Before You Dig and Know the Utility Code Colors

This blog topic was prompted by a call from a friend this morning who was trying to locate his main water line in Meridian Hills. He suspects that he has an underground leak because his water bill has jumped from $40 to $130 in three months with no discernible change in his family’s consumption pattern.

If the leak is under his property or in the meter itself, the repair will be on his dime.

At any rate, before he started digging, we agreed that he should have the line traced by contacting the Indiana Underground Plant Protection Service (IUPPS). I didn’t have the number, but remembered a clever advertising campaign a few years back with a digging mole named Holey Moley. After a quick Google search, I found him.

Effective July 1, 2009, Indiana has enacted a new law that covers residential digging. This might apply to your next deck or landscaping project. It requires homeowners and contractors who are digging to a depth greater than 12″ to contact IUPPS to have the ground marked with paint and/or flags. The local utilities are notified to mark the property within 48 hours of the homeowners call.

If you are a homeowner, here is how you start the process:

  1. From and Indiana phone, call 811 or 1-800-382-5544.
  2. Know your county and township.
  3. The operator will guide you through the process.
  4. Receive your ticket number from the operator.
  5. Wait 48 hours from the phone call for utility companies to mark their lines.
  6. Use care and hand-dig within 2 feet of any utility line.

The Call Before You Dig locator service hotline is open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. There is no charge to have your utility locations marked.

If no utilities are located, an “OK” may be spray painted on the ground with the corresponding utility company’s flag. This doesn’t mean that digging has been approved, only that one particular utility did not have any utilities in the area. According to the IUPPS website,”The digger must then correlate the responses with the list of notified companies to ensure that every company has responded before beginning the project and wait the required 48 hours.”

Here is a list of the utility color codes:

Red electric power lines, cables, conduit, and lighting cables
Orange telecommunication, alarm or signal lines, cables, or conduit
Yellow natural gas, oil, steam, petroleum, or other gaseous or flammable material
Green sewers and drain lines
Blue drinking water
Violet reclaimed water, irrigation, and slurry lines
Pink temporary survey markings, unknown/unidentified facilities
White proposed excavation limits or route

Now all my buddy will have to do is trace the blue paint to the street, locate his meter (currently buried) and start digging like a mole to find the leak.