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PIPA Recommended Practice BL15

BL15 "Enhance Damage Prevention Practices near High-Priority Subsurface Facilities"

Practice Statement Transmission pipeline operators should implement enhanced damage prevention practices within the transmission pipeline right-of-way to ensure that pipeline operators and excavators meet on-site prior to excavation activity near high-priority subsurface facilities.

Audience(s): Transmission Pipeline Operator

Practice Description

The Common Ground Alliance (CGA) Best Practices are internationally accepted as effective methods of reducing the risk of excavation damage to all underground facilities. However, the CGA Best Practices apply to all types of underground facilities, including cable television, water pipelines, and transmission pipelines. High-priority subsurface facilities warrant more stringent damage prevention practices.

High-priority subsurface facilities include transmission pipelines, high-voltage electric supply lines, fiber optic lines, and pressurized sewage pipelines. Damage to these high-priority subsurface facilities could result in significant physical injury to the excavator and/or individuals in the vicinity of the excavation. Damage could also result in interruption of critical services or products. Unreported or undetected damage to high-priority subsurface facilities poses a significant risk to life, property, and infrastructure.

CGA Best Practice 4-9, "Positive Response is Provided to Facility Locate Requests" does not require a face-to-face meeting or an onsite meeting between the transmission pipeline operator and excavator prior to the beginning of the excavation. Under the practice, positive response can be markings or documentation left at the job site, callback, fax, or automated response system.

To ensure appropriate damage prevention when excavation is proposed within 10 feet of a transmission pipeline or other high-priority subsurface facility, the pipeline operator or other facility operator should notify the excavator of the existence of the transmission pipeline or other high-priority subsurface facility prior to the legal excavation start date and time, as such date and time are authorized pursuant to one-call requirements. The excavator and transmission pipeline operator should conduct an onsite meeting at a mutually agreed upon time to determine actions or activities required to verify the location of the pipeline or other high-priority subsurface facility prior to the start of excavation.

When excavators are performing tasks that are of high risk to transmission pipeline safety, communication clearly delineating the technical details of the operation needs to be documented. Transmission pipeline operators should provide information such as the location, size and type of pipeline facility to the excavator.

Excavators should provide the operator with details about the type of equipment excavation equipment to be used, duration of the excavation project, dynamic loading over the pipeline, and other technical information in order for the pipeline operator to perform an engineering evaluation of the effects on the pipeline. The pipeline operator may require additional measures be taken to protect the pipeline from excessive loads or potential damage due to misaligned horizontal directional drills. Additional dirt cover and/or mats, timber bridges, or other protective materials deemed necessary by the transmission pipeline operator may be placed over the pipeline for the duration of any loading. Vibration equipment is usually not permitted within the transmission pipeline right-of-way. Hand digging at a minimum of two feet from the pipeline is typically required. This recommended practice is not intended to preempt any existing state or transmission pipeline operator requirements that currently specify a different distance.

Once the required information (planned work, types of equipment, loads, etc.) is received from the excavator, the pipeline operator will need sufficient time to review and develop solutions to ensure that the pipeline is adequately protected. Work should not commence until the operator has provided written notification to proceed. The operator and the one-call system need to be contacted before digging. After excavation begins, the transmission pipeline operator should have a representative on site to monitor construction activities within the right-of-way.