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The main cause of natural gas emergencies along natural gas pipelines is pipeline damage during excavation and digging. Excavators and contractors have important responsibilities in helping to prevent natural gas leaks and emergencies.


Here are the important steps for excavators and contractors in this key role:
  • Whenever possible, visit the excavation site and mark the proposed area of excavation according to the American Public Works Association (APWA) guidelines using white paint .
    excavate
  • Call NM811 at least two working days before beginning any excavation project. Calling before you dig is not only the safe and vigilant way to operate, it is the law. You may also be asked for a Locate Request Number by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission’s Pipeline Safety Bureau or other agencies to prove you called in for a line locate.
  • NM811 will assign you a Locate Request Number and will tell you what utilities will be notified at your proposed excavation site. This information is extremely important for you to have with you when you arrive at the site for excavation. You need to know what companies were notified so that you know what colors to look for on the ground before you excavate.
  • NM811 will notify all the utilities that have existing underground facilities at that location. You must wait two working days to give the utility owners who have underground facilities at your excavation site the opportunity and time to mark the location of the underground facilities with the appropriate color according to APWA guidelines. Those color codes are:
      o Yellow – Gas or petroleum products
      o Red – Electric
      o Orange – Telecommunications/ CATV
      o Blue – Water
      o Purple – Reclaimed water
      o Green – Sewer
      o Pink – Temporary Survey Marks
      o White – Proposed excavation
  • When you have waited the two working days and arrived at your excavation site, you still cannot commence excavation immediately. You must verify that the utilities that have been notified and that they have marked their respective underground facilities. If there are no markings, it could mean the utilities did not mark the location or it could mean that the utilities do not have facilities in the area and have “cleared” the location. You must call New Mexico One Call to verify that your Locate Request Number location has been cleared. This is known as positive response.
  • The safest way to begin excavating is to safely uncover all the marked utilities with a shovel or vacuum excavation prior to using mechanical equipment to excavate. Remember, at all times you must maintain an estimated clearance of 18 inches between the cutting edge of your mechanical equipment and the marked utility.

If you damage a gas pipeline
If you cause even minor damage to a natural gas pipeline, immediately contact New Mexico Gas Company at 888-NM-GAS-CO (888-664-2726). A scrape on the pipeline coating, or a dent or crease in the pipeline may cause a rupture or leak in the future. Do no attempt to make repairs yourself.

If you rupture a gas line, i.e. damage a gas line that results in escaping gas, leave the area immediately. From a safe distance, call 911 and New Mexico Gas Company at 888-NM-GAS-CO (888-664-2726), any time of day or night. Do not assume that someone else will report the situation.

Also:
  • Leave any equipment being used near the leak.
  • Do not smoke, use any telephone, start a vehicle, or any other activity that could cause sparks.
  • Stay upwind if possible.
  • Warn others to stay away from the leak area. Stay away until the problem has been corrected, a New Mexico Gas Company gas operator has reviewed the situation and you have been authorized to return.
New Mexico Gas Company will immediately dispatch personnel to the site and will provide information to public safety officials to help them respond to the leak. New Mexico Gas Company operators will also take the necessary operating actions such closing and opening valves, and other activities to minimize the impact of the situation.

To download a copy of the Excavator Handbook - What's Hot in New Mexico! from NM811, Inc. and the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, please click here.
 
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