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Underground Utility Damages by Homeowners on the Rise

patrick h. lauke, Flickr

Consumers Energy is experiencing a significant increase in damages to its underground natural gas and electric lines and is encouraging weekend building and landscaping warriors to increase their diligence to working safely.

“We’re asking homeowners to become safe digging partners, making sure to call MISS DIG at 811 at least three days before digging so underground utilities like natural gas, electric, cable and telephone lines can be marked. Calling 811 free of charge is a simple way to avoid serious consequences like unintended utility interruptions, costly repairs and even injuries,” said Dirk Dunham, damage prevention lead at Consumers Energy.

Michigan law requires a call to MISS DIG/811 prior to using any power excavating equipment, but homeowners are encouraged to call before any excavation project begins. The call is free, and staking can also be requested by visiting

Through July, underground damages caused specifically by homeowners increased by 46 incidents – or 28 percent, to a total of 209 through July 2012 vs. 163 in 2011.

Statewide all damages attributed to homeowners and excavators rose 21 percent from 676 damages during the same time through July, 2011 to 819 in 2012. Homeowner damages were attributed to two main reasons:

  • a failure to call MISS DIG or 811 at least three working days prior to digging so utilities could be marked with flags and/or paint before projects began; and
  • proper hand digging tools were not used to expose underground lines before using power equipment when working near underground lines.

Some common projects being undertaken when damages occurred included setting fence or mailbox posts, planting trees and landscaping, and installing decks.

While homeowner damages have increased statewide, three areas have seen the biggest spike in damages including the:

  • Flint area, 34 damages through July vs. 24 through July, 2011, a 42 percent increase
  • Lansing area, 13 damages through July vs. 7 through July, 2011, an 86 percent increase
  • Pontiac area, 26 damages through July vs. 14 through July, 2011, an 86 percent increase

Consumers Energy, the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy (NYSE: CMS), provides natural gas and electricity to 6.8 million of Michigan’s 10 million residents in all 69 Lower Peninsula counties.


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