Sunday is August 11th and Ameren Illinois is joining utility companies across the country in recognizing it as Nationally 8-1-1 Day by reminding customers and contractors to dial 8-1-1 before starting a digging project.
8-1-1 is a national number but in Illinois, it connects to a nonprofit organization called the Joint Utility Locating Information for Excavators – or J.U.L.I.E.
Gina Meehan-Taylor, the Public Awareness Supervisor for Ameren Illinois, says that calling 8-1-1 will lead to a contractor to coming out and marking the gas lines.
Even after the facilities are marked, all digging within 18 inches on either side of the marked line must be completed by hand. In the event that an underground line is struck while digging, there are two courses of action depending on whether natural gas is leaking.
If the strike results in a rotten egg smell, blowing dirt or bubbling water, then natural gas is likely leaking. Immediately clear the area and call 911, then contact Ameren Illinois (800-755-5000), and then call 8-1-1.
“Too often, people overlook damaged pipeline and continue working or [attempting to fix] to damage on their own. This can create a more dangerous situation,” Meehan-Taylor says. “Do not under any circumstance ignore a facility strike and continue working.”
If there is no noticeable release of natural gas, stop digging immediately and call Ameren Illinois. The utility provider will arrive on scene and make any repairs to the damaged line before the project can continue.
Vice President of Gas Operations for Ameren Illinois, Eric Kozak, says that the energy and gas provider received more than 400,000 total J.U.L.I.E notifications in 2018. He adds that people still choose not to call, “we really can’t stress this critical safety message enough.”