Home Owner Advice: What is USA (Underground Service Alert)?

USA Markings
Excavators are required to contact Underground Service Alert before digging.

USA (Underground Service Alert) North 811 is a 501(c)(6) non-profit organization funded by over 1,500 utility owners. They provide a free, vital service to help property owners and contractors stay safe and avoid service disruption while performing any underground construction work. There are many utility lines buried in the street, under sidewalks, and potentially in your front yard. Hitting one by mistake is both disruptive and costly.

In California, contractors and DIYers are required by law to mark before digging starts. That said, the Utility Providers that have underground service lines will only mark their lines on public property as the connection lines, called laterals for sewer and water, are privately owned by the property owner. This means that unless they have an easement and have a main line that runs through your property, they will not mark on privately owned land.

Most of our projects require marking for USA North 811. We initiate that process by marking the boundaries of the project site using white paint on the street and then creating a ticket with USA North 811. Typically, it takes two working days for the utilities to respond. The utilities will come out and mark their lines (also with paint).

After the project is completed, we cover the paint with tar to make it less noticeable. It is also possible to remove paint with degreasers and power washers, but we find that can mar the asphalt.

Important! If you contract for underground services from any contractor, inquire about USA 811. We lost a job to another contractor who told the client that they could install a new water line that day. We had told her we could provide a temporary fix, mark for USA, and then come back after the markings. The other contractor assured the client they would not hit another line while digging and then collected a 10% deposit. In our opinion, this puts too much risk on the client who will share responsibility for any damage to another utility line.

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