Pipeline Damage Incidents See Positive Trend Thanks to Public Awareness

AUSTIN — It should not be that surprising that the number one cause for pipeline incidents is not calling 811 to have underground utilities located, according to Railroad Commission statistics for 2021.

Photo Source: Texas Railroad Commission

The month of April is Safe Digging Month designed to bring awareness to the serious public safety consequences should pipelines or other underground utilities be damaged anywhere in Texas.

Homeowners, excavators and contractors are required to call 811 before digging, which prompts utility operators to come and mark the location of underground cables and utilities, including pipelines.

RRC statistics show the effectiveness of calling 811 in preventing pipeline damage is better than it has ever been.

In 2020, the total number of 811 calls to locate was 3.78 million, which jumped to 4.31 million in 2021.

The rate of pipeline incidents actually dropped in 2021 to 2.21 incidents per 1,000 calls to locate; the rate was 2.5 incidents per 1,000 calls in 2020. The rate has been steadily dropping since the first full year of recordkeeping started in 2008 when there were 6.44 pipeline incidents per 1,000.

Photo Source: Texas Railroad Commission

“The statistics show our outreach is working,” said Ricardo Gamez, a compliance analyst with the RRC Damage Prevention Program. “While we would like to see further reduction in the total number of damages, the fact that the number of 811 calls to locate has increased year after year can be attributed to the increase in excavation occurring in our growing state.”

Calling 811 is free but must be made at least two business days before digging. Locator personnel are dispatched to the digging site to mark the locations of underground pipelines and utilities with flags, spray paint or both.


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