Safe Digging Tips

Excavation damage is a leading cause of serious pipeline accidents. Before you plant a tree, install a fence, plow, till or dig for any reason, always call 811 to have pipelines and other underground utility lines located and marked.

State law requires that you call 811 or your state’s One Call number at least two full business days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays and holidays) before you dig. Several states require a call at least three full business days before you dig. For more information regarding state-specific requirements, visit

The following steps will help protect you from injury and potential liability when you excavate near pipelines and other underground utility lines.

1. Safe Digging Always Starts with a Free Call to 811

When you call 811, provide detailed and accurate information regarding the location of your project, when you would like to start digging and the type of excavation activity. You will receive a One Call ticket number during the call. This ticket number should be retained and accessible during your project.

2. Pre-mark the Excavation Area

Clearly identify the excavation area for line locators. Outlining the dig area with white spray paint or flags is recommended, so the utility operators will only mark the dig site, not the entire property. If you are a contractor, include the company’s name.

3. Wait for the Utilities to be Marked

In most cases, pipeline and utility operators will mark the location of underground lines within two working days. The excavation site must be accessible to line locators. Locators cannot enter properties with dogs or locked gates.

You will typically receive a message from the utility operators confirming that lines have been marked or that there are no lines near your project. If you have questions, contact Marathon Pipe Line LLC (MPL) or call 811 to confirm that all locates are complete.

4. Respect Markings and Dig with Care

Line locators use paint, chalk, flags, stakes and other temporary markers to identify the location of pipelines and other underground utility lines. The color of the mark defines the type of utility that is underground. Pipelines that transport natural gas, crude oil and other energy products are marked with yellow flags and temporary markings. Contact the utility operator if you have questions or cannot read the marks.

Once your property is marked, dig carefully. Many utilities may only be a few inches below the surface. The depth of pipelines vary. Always hand dig in the area around marked utilities. Backhoes, augers and other mechanical equipment should not be used to expose underground utilities. Only square, blunt tools should be used to expose lines. Never use picks, round pointed shovels or other sharp tools near pipelines or other underground utility lines.

If you are digging within 50 feet of a pipeline operated by MPL, a company representative will arrange to monitor excavation activity and can help you determine the most appropriate digging method.

Do not remove the flags, stakes or paint marks until you have finished digging.

5. Backfill Properly

If the pipeline is exposed during digging, you are responsible for backfilling and compacting to restore the site to its original condition.