Page 22 - Arkansas 811 Magazine 2022 Issue 1
P. 22

by John Jacobi
Pipeline Safety - A recent Personal Experience
Last time I included a paragraph about digging a hole. Little did I know that I would soon be doing exactly that.
Remember the power grid failure
in Texas last spring? My wife and I decided that we needed a whole-house back-up generator “just in case” of a similar event in the future. I figured it should cost about $10k based on history.
I started researching vendors in September. Boy!! Was I wrong about the cost. I would be lucky to get
one installed for $14k. Even more interesting - the vendor I wanted to use (based on word of mouth) couldn’t even come out for an estimate until December 21st! Furthermore, it would be until at least May before a unit could be installed. More research. I discovered I could buy a generator (including automatic transfer switch) from Costco for about a third of the price and it was in the warehouse and could be delivered in 2 to 3 weeks! SOLD!! It ended up taking a little over a month, but it was a great unit at a great price.
CenterPoint Energy is the service provider for both gas and electricity in our neighborhood. I thought it might be a good idea to check with them to find out what I might need with respect to a new gas meter. I cheated a bit, and I called a friend with CenterPoint and he told me exactly who to call (Roger) about my gas meter. I called Roger and he was able to stop by in only a couple of days. Talk about helpful!! As it turned out, I could either upgrade my existing meter and install about 200
feet of gas line to get to my proposed generator location or I could get a second gas meter installed near the proposed location. The second meter would have cost twice as much and would have meant a second minimum charge every month.
I used to work construction and I am semi-retired. I chose to install the 200 feet of gas line myself. Can you say “DIGGING”?? The route of the line was from the existing gas meter across the back yard to the back of the garage. We have an in-ground sprinkler system, and I knew that I would have to cross the existing gas service line at least once. Time to call 811! The existing service line was pretty much where I expected it to be but the lines in the easement behind the garage were closer than
I expected. Because of the sprinkler system and several large trees, I decided to hand-dig the trench (49 CFR Part
192 requires service lines to be installed with at least 12” of cover and there are no applicable local codes). That was a lot of work, but the time I could have saved by renting a trencher would
have been doubled or tripled fixing the sprinkler system and I did not want to damage the tree roots (I dug under the bigger ones).
I ended up pouring my own pad for the generator (10 80-pound bags of concrete) as well as doing the wiring myself. It took a lot of time to spec out all the necessary details and bits and pieces of hardware. I saved some money, and I learned a LOT!!
The point is that Call-Before-You-Dig works!! Calling 811 will not locate your
sprinkler system, potable water lines,
or sewer lines but it should locate underground gas lines, electrical lines, and phone lines. A little common sense, however, is worth its weight in gold!!
In this particular case, the extra hand digging saved untold hours in terms of fixing damage to the sprinkler system and probably saved at least three nice trees.
I was lucky that I found Roger. Roger, the young man that changed out my
gas meter (I needed a bigger one for
the generator), and the crew that performed the temporary electrical disconnect so I could make the final electrical connection were all extremely professional and very helpful. Kudos to CenterPoint Energy!!
Just a “heads up” - if you are a CenterPoint customer and need to call the customer service line, unless it is
an emergency, be patient, very patient. Between COVID and Amazon hiring, CenterPoint is training new customer service representatives as fast as they can. Emergencies are taken care of IMMEDIATELY I know, after waiting for 20 minutes or more to talk to a human several times, I declared an “emergency” and someone answered the call right away. I was embarrassed but I got off the line quickly. Other customer service calls may take some time until the new hires get trained.
May 2022 be a kinder and gentler year and don’t forget to CALL-BEFORE- YOU-DIG!!
John Jacobi retired from PHMSA. For questions or comments, email:
20 • Arkansas 811 Magazine 2022, Issue 1

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