ST. PAUL, Minn. — Inspectors on scene after a natural gas emergency hear it often: “I noticed a strange smell but didn’t know what it was so I didn’t do anything.” That rotten-egg smell could mean there is a natural gas leak — and it could be deadly.
The best way to avoid an emergency or unintentionally striking an underground facility is to call 811 before you dig.
April is Safe Digging Month in Minnesota. As winter-weary homeowners get ready to enjoy the warm weather and tackle their spring yard projects, The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Pipeline Safety (MNOPS) reminds Minnesotans to call before they dig.
“When you’re planning your spring project do not forget to call 811 at least two business days prior to digging,” State Fire Marshal and MNOPS Director Bruce West said. “It’s a free service in place to protect you, your family and your community”
Simple projects like building a deck, planting a tree or replacing your mailbox can be dangerous if people don’t know what’s below before they start digging. Buried underground facilities — including electric and natural gas lines — can run inches from the surface and be easily damaged with household tools.
State law requires anyone excavating to notify Gopher State One Call (GSOC) at least two days before beginning a project so utility companies can mark the approximate location of potentially hazardous underground facilities.
Digging without knowing the location of underground utilities increases the likelihood of unintentional damage, which can cause serious injuries, service disruptions and repair costs. Call 811 first so you don’t have to call 911 later. Or go to the GSOC website and request underground utilities near the area you’re digging be marked.
Signs There May Be a Gas Leak
- A rotten-egg smell
- Dirt or dust blowing from a hole in the ground
- Blowing or hissing sounds
- Dead vegetation
If You Suspect a Natural Gas Leak
- Stop digging and ensure everyone clears the area.
- Do not use electrical devices like light switches, phones or garage door openers.
- Call 911 from a safe location and alert your neighbors.
- Do not try to locate the source of the leak or shut off any natural gas valves.
About the Minnesota Department Public Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management.
About the Minnesota Office of Pipeline Safety
The mission of the Office of Pipeline Safety is to protect lives, property, and the environment through implementation of a gas and hazardous liquid pipeline inspections program, enforcement, accident and incident investigations, and education.