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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, March 31, 2010
CONTACT: Leah Mohr, deputy executive director, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201 or (605) 280-4327

PUC and South Dakota One Call issue safe digging reminder

Pierre, S.D. – The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission and the South Dakota One Call Board remind South Dakotans to call 811 before digging to preserve personal safety and underground utilities. The two organizations are engaged in educational and awareness efforts to promote safe digging.

Persons involved in digging projects are required by law to call 811 at least 48 hours before digging. The call center will notify utility company representatives in the affected dig area who will mark the approximate location of underground lines with spray paint or flags. Once a site has been accurately marked, it is safe to begin digging around the marked areas.

"Calling 811 is the smartest thing any homeowner, excavator or landscaper will do before starting their project," said PUC Chairman Dusty Johnson. "If you plan on putting a shovel in the earth, you truly want to know what's below you. Hitting an underground electric, phone, gas or any other type of utility line can cause damage to the environment, serious personal injuries, disrupt service to an entire neighborhood and potentially incur fines and repair costs," he stated.

"Damage prevention and personal safety are priorities for excavators and underground utility operators," said South Dakota One Call Board President Bleau LaFave of NorthWestern Energy. "We know that many, many South Dakotans already use the 811 service, but we need to continually spread the word that every digging project requires a call to 811," he said.

In 2009, the South Dakota One Call Center received more than 110,000 locate requests. As a result, more than 587,000 locate tickets were issued to utilities to mark their underground facilities.

According to Common Ground Alliance, an international association that promotes damage prevention practices, the most popular digging projects among homeowners include planting shrubs, planting a tree, and digging to pour concrete to create a patio or walkway. All of these common do-it-yourself projects could damage the underground infrastructure if the person digging does not know the approximate location of buried utility lines. CGA advises do-it-yourselfers who plan weekend projects to call 811 on Monday or Tuesday to allow ample time for lines to be marked.

See more information about safe digging, including a proclamation by Governor Mike Rounds naming April as Safe Digging Month in South Dakota at See for information about the South Dakota One Call program, including laws, rules and the color codes used to mark underground utilities.

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