WAXAHACHIE — In observance of “National 811 Day” on August 11, the Atmos Energy Corporation is reminding Ellis County professional excavators, as well as homeowners, to always call 811 before digging.

“Every six minutes an underground utility is hit,” stated Alfonso Hernandez, Waxahachie’s Atmos Energy’s manager of public affairs. “Safety is our highest priority, and it’ll save you a headache, hassle, and probably some money - and can surely save your life.”

“Regardless how small the project is, it’s best to be safe and call 811 for free,” he added.

Throughout the establishment of the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the U.S. Congress passed the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) as public law in 1998.

To keep the public safe, the CGA listed the underground utility infrastructures that are included in the law, such as planning and design, one call centers, locating and marking, excavation, mapping, compliance, public awareness and education, reporting and evaluation, and emerging technologies.

"The purpose of this day is to raise awareness and to identify underground utilities, and so we all partner with 811 to keep our community safe," Hernandez noted the overlapping effort from other utility companies.

According to the United States Census Bureau’s population estimate taken in July 2016, there are 168,499 residents in Ellis County, rising from its previous poll of 149,610 inhabitants in April 2010. While serving those residents, Atmos Energy has seen a 47 percent increase in requests by the public to have underground natural gas lines marked since 2008.

“The greatest risk to our natural gas pipelines is accidental damage while digging,” explained John Paris, president of Atmos Energy’s Mid-Tex division. “Even minor damage, such as a scrape, dent, or crease in a pipeline or its coating, can cause a leak.”

As stated by an Atmos Energy press release, every time the excavating public calls 811 before digging, the chance of hitting an underground utility line decreases to 99.9 percent.

“The reason we do it is that we want folks to be safe around their homes, and we don’t want to have issues later because someone didn’t call,” Hernandez simplified.

Whether one is planting trees, building fences, or even installing mailboxes, Hernandez urges locals to protect themselves from possible gas pipes, water and sewer lines, and electrical and telecommunication lines, and call before any excavation.

“It is the law that you call before you dig but it’s a service provided to the community, and it’s free,” Hernandez affirmed. “And it’s well worth the time.”

Hernandez goes on to say that once a resident calls 811, they are quickly connected to their local one-call center, which notifies the appropriate utility companies of the intention to dig.

Professional locators are then sent to the digging site to mark the locations of underground utility-owned lines with flags and spray paint, completely free of charge.

“Atmos Energy located 2.1 million underground natural gas lines in 2016,” Paris articulated. “We appreciate our customers observing this important safety law. Calling 811 is the law in every state that we serve. All excavators call 811 at least three business days before digging on public or private property.”

We care about the communities we work in,” Hernandez added. “Because we get to visit the ‘mom and pops’ at their homes and see the kids at the schools, so we’re out in the community, and we just want Waxahachie, Midlothian, and all of Ellis County to be safe.”

For more information, visit atmosenergy.com/811 or call 811.

To connect with the Atmos Energy Corporation, visit atmosenergy.com or call (888)-286-6700.

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Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer

(469)-517-1450