Some sewer laterals may have natural gas pipelines intersecting them. So, it’s critical that you contact Xcel Energy before clearing any clogged sewer or drain lines to ensure you can proceed without the risk of puncturing a natural gas line. Please call our 24-hour emergency number at 1-800-895-2999.
Xcel Energy uses horizontal directional digging to install natural gas lines underneath streets, driveways and mature trees. This approach is common in the utility industry because it causes less environmental disruption than open digging. Xcel Energy currently uses techniques to detect sewer lines during directional digging. Before these techniques existed, unintentional boring through older sewer lines may have occurred. Intersections like these are known as "cross bores."
A cross bore in a sewer lateral will impede flow and lead to eventual blockage. A worker who attempts to remove the blockage can accidentally cut the gas line and cause a dangerous release of natural gas. The resulting loss of service may not be immediately apparent. Gas can migrate undetected through the lateral and concentrate in sewer lines and nearby structures, causing a potential hazard.
- Before clearing. Always call Xcel Energy at 1-800-895-2999 before you clear a sewer clog or blockage. We will determine if any conflicts exist between our natural gas lines and the blocked sewer line. If we detect a conflict, we will notify the customer and repair/reroute the gas line.
- During clearing. Play it safe and always proceed as if a cross bore might be present. As you go, feel for resistance that does not resemble a tree root or other common obstruction. Natural gas utility lines are typically plastic. If you must use a cutting tool, use gas detection equipment (e.g., combustible gas indicator) and look for yellow or orange plastic on the blades when you withdraw the tool. Also, watch for bubbles escaping from the entry point of the cutting equipment or toilet.
- If you suspect a gas leak. Immediately warn all inhabitants and evacuate the area. Do not use a flame or anything electrical, as a spark could ignite the gas. When you reach a safe location, call 9-1-1 and Xcel Energy immediately.
Additional overhead and digging guidelines, emergency procedures, case studies, instructional videos and training tools can all be found, at no charge to you, on Xcel Energy’s e-SMARTworkers website.
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