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DIRT report on damage to underground infrastructure

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World Pipelines,

More than half of damage to underground infrastructure in Canada is a result of failure to call before digging, according to a new report from the Canadian Common Ground Alliance.

The Alliance, or CCGA, is a national organisation representing operators of underground infrastructure such as the Trans Mountain Pipeline. The 2383 member organisation annually issues a report analysing reported damage – which can result in a need to repair an underground structure, or even its partial or complete destruction. The CCGA estimates there is an annual societal cost of CAN$1 billion to Canada for damage to underground infrastructure.

The CCGA’s most recent report, available here, is for 2017.

The damage information reporting tool (DIRT) report shows that nationally:

  • The most common known root cause of damage to infrastructure was no notification to a regional One Call Centre, such as Alberta One-Call and BC One Call.
  • Most damage (89%) reports were from natural gas distribution and telecommunication facility operators.
  • 72% of damage incidents were attributed to contractors working primarily on water and sewer systems.
  • Backhoes and trenchers were involved in at least 47% of damage incidents.
  • Water and sewer systems accounted for the single largest portion of incidents at 25%.
  • 63% of damages during excavation were caused by a failure to use hand tools where required.

Alberta has 871 CCGA members; British Columbia (BC) 341. At the provincial level:

  • 91% of reported incidents in BC involved natural gas facilities, telecommunications accounted for 5% and liquid pipelines 4%.
  • 63% of reported incidents in Alberta involved telecommunications compared with 30% for natural gas, 6% for underground electrical utilities and 1% for liquid pipelines.
  • In 94% of incidents in BC, no request was made to BC One Call before work commenced.
  • In 74% of incidents in Alberta, no request was made to Alberta One-Call before work commenced.

The DIRT report indicates a jump in the number of reported damages in BC in 2017 (1477) compared to 2016 (1269). Number of reported damages dropped to 2764 in Alberta in 2017 compared to 4356 in 2016.

DIRT report note: Damage is reported on a voluntary basis, so total damages per year may be higher.

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