Tougher dig law goes into effect with intent to reduce damage

January 3, 2013

By Staff

NEW — 8 a.m. Jan. 3, 2013

Changes to the state call-before-you-dig law went into effect Tuesday, and the updated rules include stiffer penalties, mandatory damage reporting and clearer procedures — even for deep digging in a garden or yard.

The law affects all excavators, including contractors, homeowners and utilities. State lawmakers passed the law in 2011 at the request of the state Utilities and Transportation Commission. Officials said the switch is intended to improve communication and decrease damage to underground pipelines and utilities.

Under the law, excavators and utilities must report to the Utilities and Transportation Commission any damage to underground facilities within 45 days. Under the previous law, excavators only had to report damage to regulated natural gas and hazardous liquid facilities.

The law did not change the current requirement for all residents to call for a utility locate at least two business days prior to digging, including any digging more than 12 inches in a residential yard or garden. Call 811 or or go to www.callbeforeyoudig.org for a free locate.

The updated law also requires excavators to outline the proposed dig area in white paint prior to calling for a locate, make arrangements with the affected utilities when projects exceed 700 linear feet and maintain locate marks for 45 days.

Utilities must register with the state call center, mark all locatable facilities and provide information to the excavator about unlocatable facilities.

The law created a dispute resolution board to hear complaints of violations and recommend enforcement action to the Utilities and Transportation Commission. The group, called the Washington Dig Law Safety Committee, includes 13 members.

Penalties increased from $1,000 per violation to $1,000 for the initial violation and up to $5,000 for subsequent violations within a three-year period. If a homeowner or other excavator fails to request a locate and damages a hazardous liquid or gas transmission pipeline, he or she is subject to a $10,000 penalty and could face a misdemeanor charge.

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