One-Call officials want teeth' in digging laws
By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
Mississippi One-Call officials are trying to get the state's One-Call Dig Law more clearly defined, while a related committee is working to build communication between people who work for companies with underground lines.
One-Call is a national non-profit organization that informs the public of the dangers of digging without finding out what's underground first. Their representatives help coordinate member companies whose workers can then go out and mark lines when someone is about to dig. Red is for electric lines, yellow for gas, oil and steam, orange for communication lines, blue for water and green for sewer.
Mississippi One-Call Damage Prevention Coordinator Henry Greer came from Jackson Wednesday to meet with members of the Central Mississippi chapter of One-Call coordinators and a damage prevention coordinating committee (DPCC) a separate group consisting of One-Call members and some who are not.
Representatives of the city of Meridian, Lauderdale County, East Mississippi Electric Power Association, North Lauderdale Water Association, NTS Utility and Plantation Pipeline got an update on the One-Call Dig Law.
Greer said the law requires that people call to locate underground utilities before digging, but there are no fines or penalties for not doing so. One-Call attorneys are meeting to write drafts to send legislators that would include fines.
People who dig on a regular basis would include contractors and utility company workers. Someone digging holes for fence posts on their personal property might not be fined for not calling first, but they may still have to pay for any damages they did to a company's lines.
Attorneys will also be working on a clearer definition of "emergency," since fines wouldn't apply in an emergency situation.
EMEPA representative Howard Trawick said one DPCC focus is building communication between various companies and governmental agencies to keep workers and residents from endangering their own or other people's lives by hitting a gas line, for example and to keep service interruption and property damage to a minimum.
One company official in the Tupelo area reported a 41 percent decrease in damage where DPCC members are active and a 26 percent increase in an area where they are not, Greer said. Businesses and organizations who want to join the organization or committee can call (601) 362-4374 or (601) 362-4743.
People who need to report a digging project should call (800) 227-6477 at least two working days before they dig. Someone is available from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. One-Call officials will contact their members who have underground lines at the project site and they will tell you who else you must contact to get other lines marked before you dig.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local Mississippi One-Call Coordinators:
Collinsville Water Association
Comcast Cable of Meridian
East Mississippi Electric Power Association
Mississippi Power Company
Mississippi Valley Gas
North Lauderdale Water Association
Southern Natural Gas
Southwest Lauderdale Water Association
Tennessee Gas Pipeline
Town of Marion