Ky. Voices: Before digging, check location of gas lines

This month marks the sixth annual National Safe Digging Month, reminding Kentucky residents to always call 811 before any excavation project, large or small.

According to Common Ground Alliance, a national organization focused on protecting underground utilities across the country, an underground utility line is damaged every eight minutes because someone decided to dig without calling 811 first.

As Gov. Steve Beshear noted in his proclamation of Safe Digging Month in Kentucky, released by the Kentucky Public Service Commission on April 17, calling 811 can prevent injury to workers, reduce expenses to the public and minimize damages to underground utilities.

At Columbia Gas of Kentucky, we focus our efforts everyday on the safe delivery of natural gas to the hundreds of thousands of homeowners and businesses who depend on natural gas for their energy needs. But Columbia Gas — like other utility providers with underground lines — depends on residents and professional excavators to do their part to help protect themselves and our community.

So whether you are a professional excavator or a weekend warrior tackling a home improvement project, remember to call 811 at least two days prior, but not more than 10 days prior, to beginning any digging project.

It's not just a good idea; it's the law.

Protecting our underground pipelines is an important part of our business, and maintaining those pipelines is, too. Several years ago, Columbia Gas of Kentucky initiated an extensive, proactive effort to replace aging pipelines throughout our 30-county service area. The purpose of these projects is the continued safe delivery of natural gas to our neighbors who depend on it.

These projects include replacement of main lines and service lines as well as the relocation of inside meters to the exterior of homes and businesses.

Since 2008, Columbia Gas of Kentucky has replaced over 400,000 feet of main line and over 9,200 service lines.

As we look ahead, we realize that a smart energy future will effectively use all available technologies and applications.

While homeowners continue to love the comfort, warmth and reliability of natural gas, policymakers and a new generation of consumers recognize it for its environmental benefits and the opportunity to reduce our dependency on foreign oil.

The use of natural gas for personal and fleet vehicles is now a reality in more communities across the United States. Lexington, for example, has recently changed its zoning ordinances to allow for natural gas vehicle fueling stations. And today's residential and commercial consumers are looking to natural gas for new uses, including affordable natural gas generators that provide convenience and security during power outages.

Energy efficiency programs, like Columbia Gas of Kentucky's WarmWise program, are helping customers use energy wisely by providing home energy checkups, rebates on high-efficiency natural gas furnaces, water heaters and other appliances, and high-efficiency furnace replacements for low-income customers.

These programs combined with smart energy consumption habits by all of us will help keep ample supplies of this valuable energy source available for many uses for many generations to come.