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Stiff penalty for homeowners, contractors who don't call before digging

Some 7,000 to 10,000 cases a year come in to the state about emergencies that occur due to someone hitting a utility line.

O'FALLON, Mo. — An important reminder when it comes to digging around your home, something as simple as planting a tree must be reported to the Missouri One Call System. That's because there are dangers underground that you just can't see.

Some 7,000 to 10,000 cases a year come in to the state about emergencies that occur due to someone hitting a utility line. Those are just the cases that were reported. There are likely thousands of additional cases.

As an O'Fallon Missouri community recovers from a horrifying home explosion Tuesday, KSDK has learned the Missouri Public Service Commission and OSHA are investigating after a contractor for Gateway Fiber accidentally hit a gas line.

RELATED: OSHA, Missouri Public Service Commission investigating O'Fallon house explosion

Fortunately, no one was hurt although this could happen to anyone at any time if they're not careful. It's why the state requires all homeowners and contractors to call 811 if they're going to dig.

"Doesn't matter if they're digging six inches or six feet, doesn't matter if it's rural or urban,” said Derek Leffert of the MO One Call System.

It could be for something as simple as planting a tree or installing a mailbox or something as big as landscaping jobs or installing retaining walls. 

"There are a number of underground utilities that obviously you can't see. Some of those utilities can be dangerous if they're damaged,” Leffert said. 

When you or your contractor contacts the state, the state contacts utility companies to come to your property and mark where those utility lines are. Then, you're encouraged to stay at least two feet away from those lines when you get to work.

"If folks get into underground electric lines, they can electrocute themselves,” Leffert advised. 

There are risks with all utility lines from gas to sewer to even water lines. 

"You can't see it and if you can't see it, you don't know that it's there,” Leffert added.

The penalty for not calling before you dig is a fine of up to $10,000 per day per violation.


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