On August 11 in the United States, 811 Day is recognized to promote safe digging.

811 is the US national call-before-you-dig phone number. Anyone who plans to dig, should first call 811 or go to their state’s 811 center website to request the approximate location of buried utilities be marked with paint or flags to avoid unintentionally digging into an underground utility line.

Trans Mountain recognizes 811 Day as our operations extend into Washington state. At the Sumas delivery point in Abbotsford, BC, the Trans Mountain Pipeline connects with the Trans Mountain Puget Sound Pipeline, a system that has been shipping Canadian crude oil products since 1954 to Washington state refineries in Anacortes, Cherry Point and Ferndale for processing.

We had a conversation with Todd Pleadwell, Trans Mountain Operations Supervisor in Puget Sound, to learn more about 811 Day and the importance of call-before-you dig.

Are the landowners and contractors you encounter generally aware of safe digging practices?

While most landowners and contractors are aware of 811, they might not be familiar with Trans Mountain's safe digging procedures and requirements. Our Puget Sound Pipeline Protection team invests time and effort to meet people in the field to raise awareness about the presence of the pipeline and discuss the requirements to contact 811 before beginning any ground disturbance activity.

How does your team build awareness with landowners and contractors?

Puget’s Pipeline Protection team builds awareness through their day-to-day activities, engaging with property owners and contractors. When a pipeline inspector patrols the right-of-way, as part of their duties, and comes across a landowner, contractor or neighbor, they will have a conversation about the pipeline, the 811 One Call requirement and how to work safely near the pipeline. In addition, we work with our Public Awareness team to provide damage prevention information to our landowners, contractors and affected public.

What are some typical ground disturbance activities you see in your area?

Some of the common ground disturbance activities in Puget Sound include utility and road crossings, building driveways, clearing drainage ditches, installing fences and driving posts.  

When a planned ground disturbance activity is relatively small, would you still recommend calling 811?

Before you start any ground disturbance work, no matter how simple or small, including planting trees and shrubs or setting up fences and mailboxes, you should call 811 or visit digsafewa.com at least two business days in advance. This will help prevent any potential damage to underground infrastructure, avoid delays to your work and prevent personal injury or service interruptions.

Can you describe the 811 process? 

The 811 process involves five easy steps:

1. Notify – Call 811

2. Wait – Two business days before any excavation

3. Confirm – All known utilities have been marked

4. Respect – All markings and procedures of each utility  

5. Dig Carefully – Hand dig utilities for precise location and depth