Digging Parallel to Buried Utilities

Quite often, construction activities such as road construction or curb and gutter replacement require a ground disturbance to be conducted parallel to a buried utility.

In this situation, you should contact the operator of the buried utility for advice on how to proceed. The utility operator may require you to hand expose the utility in several locations to determine its true alignment before allowing you to encroach on the hand expose zone with mechanical equipment. Buried utilities, particularly shallow utilities - telephone, cable TV, electric and natural gas distribution - are not necessarily installed in a straight alignment.

Direct Bury Trunk or Toll Fibre Optic Cables.

Direct bury trunk or toll fibre optic cables are major communications cables that have been installed by plowing-in. They are not in a conduit or a duct structure. Operators of direct bury trunk or toll fibre optic cables may require that an inspector be on site during hand exposure and/or crossing activities. Any such requirement will be included in the locate documentation together with the advance notice and required contact information.

Frozen Ground Excavations.

The fact that the ground is frozen does not mean that buried utilities do not have to be hand exposed and visible before a ground disturbance takes place. In situations where the ground is frozen, you can thaw the ground or use non-destructive excavation techniques acceptable to the operator of the buried utility.

If your choice is to thaw the ground, the procedures used must be acceptable to the operator of the buried utility. You should not partially thaw the ground, excavate, and then reapply thawing procedures at a lower elevation.

The use of hydrovac equipment to expose buried utilities in frozen ground may be acceptable to the operator of a buried utility. In an emergency situation, or in a situation where it is neither possible nor practical to thaw the ground, contact the utility operator for advice on how to proceed.

Energized Power Cables

Hand exposure of energized or live high-voltage cables must not be undertaken until the electric power utility operator has been consulted for advice and assistance.

The Alberta Electrical Utility Code places an obligation on the electric utility operator to ensure that the exposure of energized power cables is done safely. The utility operator must determine if direct supervision is required, or if the work will be done in a safe manner without direct supervision, which will depend on the expertise and reliability of the ground disturber and the type of buried electrical cable involved. The ground disturber may be required to participate in specific training or orientation by the electric utility operator.

In some special situations, the hand expose zone for buried electric utilities may be greater than 1 m. The ground disturber will be advised of these situations by the locator and in the locate documentation.

Excavating Around Pipelines

Within the province, pipelines transporting fossil fuels such as natural gas, oil and natural gas liquids, water supply and disposal lines or any other pipelines or other buried utilities associated with an energy related project and within the meaning of a “pipeline” under the Alberta Pipeline Act, are under the jurisdiction of the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER).

Pipelines that cross a provincial or national boundary are regulated by the National Energy Board.There are minor differences between the provincial and federal regulations, but their intents are similar. The requirements in this section are only applicable to provincially and federally regulated pipelines.

The area within 30 m either side of a provincially regulated pipeline is a controlled area. The area within 30 m of the right of way of a federally regulated pipeline is a safety zone. The pipeline operator must be notified of any intent to disturb the ground within the controlled area or safety zone and the ground disturber must request locates.

The Alberta Pipeline Act and Regulation further requires that anyone proposing to undertake a ground disturbance search an area of 30 m beyond the limits of the proposed ground disturbance for the presence of pipelines.

A pipeline right of way has specific boundaries within which the pipeline operator has the right to construct pipelines and control activity. If the proposed ground disturbance is within the pipeline right of way, the ground disturber must obtain written permission from the pipeline operator.

Mechanical excavation equipment may not be used within 5 m of a provincially regulated pipeline until the pipeline has been hand exposed and is clearly visible. Mechanical equipment may not be used within 600 mm of the exposed pipeline, except under the direct supervision of the pipeline operator. Mechanical excavation equipment may not be used within 3 m of a federally regulated pipeline until the pipeline has been hand exposed and is visible.

The construction of haul or access roads and the movement of vehicles or equipment along or across a pipeline right of way, other than in the upgraded and traveled portion of a highway or public road, have the potential to damage pipelines. Advance written permission and approval for this type of activity must be obtained from the pipeline operator.

Written permission from the operator of a pipeline to undertake activities near a pipeline may take the form of a crossing agreement or proximity agreement. These often impose stricter conditions on the ground disturber than the minimum regulatory requirements.

Transportation Utility Corridor (TUC)

In the mid-1970s, the Government of Alberta established Transportation/Utility Corridors (TUCs) in and around both Calgary and Edmonton to ensure coordinated development for long-term objectives. Their purpose is to provide space for future ring road development, to accommodate utilities such as oil and gas pipelines, electric transmission lines and utility distribution systems such as sewer, water, gas, telephone, cable TV and power and to serve as open space areas in an urban setting.

If a ground disturbance is to take place within a TUC, written authorization is required before any ground disturbance occurs. For further information, contact www.infrastructure.alberta.ca (Buildings and Land / Transportation Utilities Corridor)

Utility Rights of Way

In many municipalities it has become necessary to install the shallow utilities in a utility right of way across residential properties. Unfortunately, most homeowners are not aware of the existence of a utility right of way on their properties. Because the operators of the utilities buried within the utility right of way must have access to the right of way for maintenance and repair purposes, property owners are restricted as to what they can build and plant on a utility right of way. Property owners should check their certificates of title for utility rights of way and contact the local municipality to determine what restrictions have been placed on their use of the land.

Traffic Control

It is the responsibility of the excavator to arrange traffic control when a locator is required to work on or adjacent to high traffic volume roads, or near roadways that pose a potential threat to the safety of workers.

Traffic control must be in place prior to the scheduled appointment time and remain in place until the locate has been completed.

Site Orientation

A site orientation ensures that the hazards associated with each particular job site are communicated to everyone arriving at the job site. Should a site orientation be required, please indicate this to Alberta One-Call when requesting a locate. You should request sufficient time to complete both the orientation and the locate within the scheduled appointment time.