excavation

Recent CO811 Changes: Improving Excavation and Digging Safety in Colorado

Utility Notification Center of Colorado, CO811, an organization created to protect the underground infrastructure of the state and promote excavation and digging safety, has changes in effect for 2019. 

Electric lines, gas lines, cable lines, fluid pipelines—all are part of the complex underground world CO811 manages in partnership with utility owners. The CO811 call center is the point of contact for anyone who wishes to dig near or on public property. Anyone can call and request that underground assets be marked, a necessary step for any construction or maintenance project involving excavation. 

Once CO811 is notified, notifications are sent out to utility owners who might have underground utilities in the area. Then locators hired by each utility company come out and use different methods (mostly radio detection wands) to mark with either spray paint or flags where these underground assets are situated. This is a vital-- no one wants to accidentally hit a power line or a gas line. The Heather Gardens gas explosion in Aurora on November 16, 2018 demonstrates the tragic outcome that can occur during an accidental pipeline strike. This gas explosion, caused by workers striking a gas line while digging underground pathways, killed an 82- year-old woman who was a resident of the Heather Gardens senior community.

Accidents in the past have prompted the federal government to take a closer look at damage prevention procedures. According to a 2016 report on the protocols surrounding the Utility Notification Center of Colorado:

“The United States Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) conducted an adequacy evaluation of Colorado’s enforcement of its excavation damage prevention law, and determined that the enforcement is inadequate, which may eventually result in the withholding of federal funds from Colorado.” 

No doubt there is room for improvement, and without some changes, funding is on the line. 

Colorado took action in 2018 to address these issues with Senate Bill 18-167. On May 25 of 2018, Governor Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 18-167 into law that created a new commission, changed things up for Tier Two members, and changed things for Home Rule cities. 

Effective August 8, 2018, the Underground Damage Prevention Safety Commission was given the authority to review complaints and fine for infractions as defined by the new One Call Law. This is new. Until now Colorado has not had the authority to fine anybody. This will hopefully incentivize utility owners, locators and diggers to pay better attention to safety protocols. The commission will also have the ability to review complaints. 

What does this bill mean for Tier Two members? Tier Two members have until January 1, 2021 to convert their membership status to Tier One and update their underground facility registration with CO811. Conversion is mandatory on January 1, 2019. 

What’s different for Home Rule cities such as Aurora or Colorado Springs and the Safety Commission? Home Rule cities can opt out of the safety commission, but if they do then they need to create their own enforcement commissions. These enforcement commissions need to effectively help mitigate the risks involved with digging. 

The new bill will help promote excavation and digging safety as well as help to preserve Colorado’s infrastructure. Tier Two members converting to Tier Ones, the creation of the commission, the establishment of a penalty plan, and the ability to review complaints are steps in the right direction to improve the safety and surrounding procedures for all parties involved in the digging process. 

If you are GIS manager and want to know how we can assist you in improving your GIS data management, please contact us. Argis Solutions is the leading company for connecting GIS data with augmented reality, and we want to help you. 

 

Colorado | PHMSA. 2018. Colorado | PHMSA. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.phmsa.dot.gov/safety-awareness/pipeline/colorado. [Accessed 08 November 2018]. 

Medium. 2018. A Look at Six Recent Oil and Gas Disasters in Colorado. [ONLINE] Available at: https://medium.com/the-colorado-lookout/a-look-at-five-recent-oil-and-gas-disasters-in-colorado-1ae0e3b8dee4. [Accessed 04 November 2018]. 

CO811. 2018. SENATE BILL 18-167 Signed MAY 25, 2018 - CO811. [ONLINE] Available at: http://colorado811.org/senate-bill-18-167-to-be-signed-may-18-2018/. [Accessed 04 November 2018].

Addressing Aging Infrastructure: Make AR Part of Your Solution

GIS data shown through augmented reality technology can help communicate discrepancies during the remediation process for upgrading underground infrastructure. 

By Alyssa Grant 

The Flint water crisis highlights the consequences of aging underground infrastructure and the deeply negative impact it can have on a community. Remediation can be a daunting, complex process. The remediation efforts to replace Flint’s lead and galvanized steel pipes with copper piping will be winding down by the end of the year. As of September 2018, 15,031 pipes have been excavated and 7,233 pipes have been identified as requiring replacement, underlining the scope of this headline-making water utility remediation project. 

Flint is not alone—aging underground infrastructure is a nationwide issue. The 2017 Infrastructure Report Card gives America’s drinking water a “D,” communicating that communities across the country are in dire need of water pipeline upgrades. 

Outdated natural gas pipelines are another concern. Old pipelines can leak, damaging the environment, even resulting in explosions causing property damage and fatalities, like the Merrimack Valley gas explosions on September 13, 2018 that resulted in 80 fires and one death. 

Updating aging utilities can be a complicated task.  Gregory Korte’s investigation on the state of our nation’s natural gas pipelines for USA Today revealed that the aging gas pipelines in Merrimack Valley were acknowledged to be a challenge to remediate:

“. . . Columbia Gas warned state regulators that replacing pipes in places like Lawrence would be difficult. The pipelines were in densely populated areas dominated by paved surfaces. They're intertwined with other utilities in crowded rights of way. " 

Unfortunately, the explosions occurred before improvements could be fully addressed. The costs related to the resulting damage could reach $1 billion

The complexities of underground infrastructure and the delicate excavation that can be involved in remediation underline the need for a sophisticated way to view and share mapping data. Some companies and municipalities are finding that augmented reality technology meets that need. 

What is augmented reality (AR)? This technology interposes computer-generated images in a real-world setting. Imagine being able to see GIS data through a cell phone camera—a scene you might see through the camera’s eye with AR could be a sewer line below a sidewalk intersected by a natural gas pipeline that crosses underneath an adjacent roadway. 

With the Argis Lens, a mobile AR application, that imagined scene is reality. The Lens quickly visually communicates what lies beneath the ground because a picture is worth a thousand words, especially when the complex GIS data of water or natural gas pipelines and sewer or stormwater systems are involved. The Argis Lens dynamically translates GIS data into AR imagery on mobile iOS devices.  

Using AR, underground infrastructure stakeholders can project their GIS data on new job sites to show foremen and construction crews where underground assets are located in real time. In addition, with the Lens, they can confirm that all assets are marked appropriately before excavation begins. Leveraging this technology, these companies are seeing a new level of collaboration between their asset protection teams and contractors because they are using AR to communicate high-risk areas where particular care needs to be taken before digging.

Cities, pipeline, and utility companies can all benefit from increased productivity on the job site, improved communication, and data quality confirmation. As infrastructure below the ground continues to deteriorate and become obsolete, proactive stakeholders with underground assets will turn to new technology, such as the Argis Lens, for more effective solutions as they upgrade and improve what is hidden.