WAXAHACHIE (CBSDFW.COM) – The explosion that nearly killed a woman in Waxahachie last September, happened in an instant. The type of mistake the led to it, we discovered, happens nearly every day.
After Aldemira Chavez shared her story of her home exploding after a gas leak, CBS11 News wanted to know just how often underground lines are damaged. The worst case scenarios, after underground gas lines are damaged get attention—but CBS11 News found it’s happening all around us, all the time.
“Everything that’s underground, it’s being cut, every day,” said Mike Losawyer, the CEO of Texas811.
Every two seconds the organization takes a call from someone trying to find out what’s underground, so they don’t hit it. But state records show so far this year, someone has reported a damage incident in Denton and Collin counties, almost every day. There have been two a day in Tarrant County, and in Dallas County, two or three every day.
And CBS11 News found in about 1 out of every 4 damage incidents, reports say no one checked to see what was underground, before they started digging.
“I just don’t think people know about it,” Losawyer said. “I think it’s one of those obscure laws that people don’t know that it’s a law that you are required to call before you dig”
811 is constantly trying to educate people about the law. Last week the Railroad Commission of Texas, which enforces pipeline damage rules, doled out a quarter-million in fines for not following the law. But CBS11 News found excavators, backyard landscapers, and even cities, keep breaking it.
CBS11 News learned the City of Dallas has changed its policies after a crew replacing a guard rail post hit a gas in March. The city was fined more than $3,000. We found at least three more similar cases involving city crews this year.
“One, the pipes are not at the level or depth they’re supposed to be, and two, we have instances where employees might not have followed the protocol to a ‘t’,” said Raymond Lee, vice president of the city streets department.
Damage incidents have dropped in the state, from nearly 13,000 six years ago, to just over 9,000 last year.
As Chavez learned though, it only takes one, to change everything.
“I hear stories about what happened to people, explosions you know but I would never ever in a million years think it would ever happen to me,” she said.
Telecommunications lines are the second most frequently hit underground utility, according to data from the Common Ground Alliance. There aren’t any requirements though for reporting the incidents like there are with gas lines.
(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)