Some people are not aware that when you intend to dig, you need to comply with Indiana call before you dig laws and notify the Indiana Underground Plant Protection Service, also known as Indiana 811. Compliance ensures that you do not interfere with or damage the property of a utility company, which may have a legally protected easement on your property under Indiana utility easement laws.
The History of the Indiana Call before You Dig Statute
The Indiana General Assembly enacted Indiana Code chapter 8-1-26, the Damages to Underground Facilities Act (DUFA), which took effect on January 1, 1991. The Act was passed because the ramifications of damaged utility equipment and interrupted service can lead to the loss of natural gas, and 911 infrastructure as well as data circuits, water, sewer, or electricity, damage to which can be public safety hazards.
The law was last substantially amended in 2009. There were further changes to the DUFA in 2010 and 2014. An experienced Indiana utility lawyer can help you better understand current excavator responsibilities when digging, even on your own property, and will also fight for your rights when disputes arise related to Indiana utility laws and the Indiana Underground Utility Plant Protection Service.
Changes to the Indiana Call before You Dig Act
There are important differences between the original 1990 act and the 2009 and 2014 amended versions. Several new sections were added and others were considerably amended to increase excavator responsibilities when digging or planning to do so.
The 2009 amendments to the chapter include the following:
- Section 1.3 added the definition of “account,” which refers to the Indiana underground plant protection account that is established by section 24.
- Section 24 established an account to be used for public awareness programs, training, and incentive programs for the various parties affected, including contractors, excavators, locators, and operators.
- Section 1.5 defined the term “advisory committee” and references it to Section 23, which establishes the advisory committee and deals with its membership, duties, and powers.
- Section 11.2 attached the meaning of “pipeline facilities” as set forth in former Indiana Code chapter 8-1-22 (now repealed).
- Section 11.5 was added to define the term “white lining” for the purposes of this chapter.
Indiana Call before You Dig Requirements and Penalties
Section 16 of Indiana Code chapter 8-1-26, titled “Notice to excavate or demolish; duty to perform white lining; notice to contents and expiration; civil penalties,” was amended in 2009 and in 2014. The 2009 amendments to this chapter included setting out the following excavator responsibilities when digging or planning to dig:
- Excavators must perform white lining before beginning excavation.
- A civil penalty not to exceed $10,000 can be charged to individuals that cause damage to a pipeline facility located in the construction area and were required give notice or perform white lining but failed to do so.
- Excavators must submit separate ticket locate requests and notices with the Indiana Underground Plant Protection Service for excavation within an incorporated area for every 1,500 linear feet and for every 2,500 linear feet in an unincorporated area.
However, in 2014, this provision was again amended and the unincorporated area increased to every 2,640 linear feet. The notice provision under this section was also amended in 2014, stipulating that, because a notice is only valid for 20 days, excavator responsibilities when digging or planning to dig include submission of a new locate request ticket with the Indiana Underground Plant Protection Service after the 20 days have lapsed and the excavation work is still not complete.
Additional Excavator Responsibilities when Digging or Planning to Dig
Another section that was substantially modified by the 2009 and 2014 amendments is section 20, titled “Duties of excavator; facilities in or under pavement; use of mechanized equipment; civil penalties.” The 2009 amendments imposed the duty on the excavator to notify the association if there is evidence of an unmarked pipeline facility or if the underground facility markings become illegible. Further, it provided a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000 for individuals who violated the aforementioned provision.
The 2014 amendments to this section allow excavators to use mechanized equipment within the two-foot clearance of an underground facility if certain conditions are met. Those conditions are as follows:
- The excavator can visually identify the specific location of the underground facility or can visually confirm that there is not a facility within the range of the excavation.
- The excavator reasonably acts to avoid damage to the underground facilities’ structural integrity.
- The excavator reasonably acts to avoid “penetration or destruction” of the facilities, including any protective layers or coverings.
- An individual other than the equipment operator visually monitors the excavation activity.
An Allowance Included in the 2014 Amendments
The last major provision of the 2014 amendments to this chapter further amends section 20. It allows for mechanized equipment to be used for the initial groundbreaking and removal of manmade hard surfaces, such as pavement, when the following conditions are met:
- The excavator plans the excavation to avoid damage to or minimize interference with the underground facilities.
- The person responsible for the excavation evaluates the potential limitations in controlling the equipment.
- The equipment is only used to the depth required for removal of the hard surface.
The Impacts of Changes to Indiana Call before You Dig Laws
While these amendments may appear to have only small impact, they have drastically increased excavator responsibilities while digging as well as liability. This is why it is so fundamental for an excavator or for any individual planning on digging to be mindful of Indiana utility easement laws and notify Indiana 811. This will not only protect the underground facility but can also protect the person excavating from potential liability.
Do You Need an Indiana Utility Lawyer?
Corey Meridew is an Indiana utility lawyer with Camden & Meridew, P.C. He practices in the areas of construction law, appellate law, business litigation, and utility law. Corey has litigated hundreds of claims under Indiana’s Damage to Underground Facilities Act and can help you understand or manage legal matters related to Indiana call before you dig laws. Should you need an attorney in this specialized area, call 317-770-0000 or complete our online contact form today.
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