More than half of damage to underground infrastructure in Canada is a result of failure to call before digging, according to a new report from the Canadian Common Ground Alliance.

The Alliance, or CCGA, is a national organization representing operators of underground infrastructure such as the Trans Mountain Pipeline. The 2,383-member organization annually issues a report analyzing reported damage — which can result in a need to repair an underground structure, or even its partial or complete destruction. The CCGA estimates there’s an annual societal cost of $1 billion to Canada for damage to underground infrastructure.

The CCGA’s most recent report, available here, is for 2017.

The Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) report shows that nationally:

  • The most common known root cause of damage to infrastructure was no notification to a regional One Call Centre, such as Alberta One-Call and BC One Call
  • Most damage (89 per cent) reports were from natural gas distribution and telecommunication facility operators
  • 72 per cent of damage incidents were attributed to contractors working primarily on water and sewer systems
  • Backhoes and trenchers were involved in at least 47 per cent of damage incidents
  • Water and sewer systems accounted for the single largest portion of incidents at 25 per cent
  • 63 per cent of damages during excavation were caused by a failure to use hand tools where required

Alberta has 871 CCGA members; British Columbia 341. At the provincial level:

  • 91 per cent of reported incidents in British Columbia involved natural gas facilities, telecommunications accounted for five per cent and liquid pipelines four per cent
  • 63 per cent of reported incidents in Alberta involved telecommunications compared with 30 per cent for natural gas, six per cent for underground electrical utilities and one per cent for liquid pipelines
  • In 94 per cent of incidents in British Columbia, no request was made to BC One Call before work commenced
  •  In 74 per cent of incidents in Alberta, no request was made to Alberta One-Call before work commenced

The DIRT report indicates a jump in the number of reported damages in British Columbia in 2017 (1,477) compared to 2016 (1,269). Number of reported damages dropped to 2,764 in Alberta in 2017 compared to 4,356 in 2016.

DIRT report note: Damage is reported on a voluntary basis, so total damages per year may be higher.