CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Excavators, contractors and homeowners in West Virginia now face possible civil penalties for not calling 811 at least two business days before digging.

This month is the first for changes to the West Virginia Damage Prevention Law and the One Call 811 system allowing for such penalties if the reporting requirement is not met.

“The penalties can range from violators having to take a training class to a fine of up to $5,000,” said Susan Small, director of communications for the West Virginia Public Service Commission.

In general, any digging deeper than about 12 inches should prompt calls.

“If I’m out in my yard weeding with a trowel, that doesn’t violate it. My dog’s electric fence is about six inches below the surface. That would not trigger a One Call,” said Small.

“But if you’re going to be digging deep enough to plant a tree or to set a mailbox or to put in a fence, you need to call One Call.”

Requests to 811, a free service, must be made at least two business days in advance.

“Trained markers will come out and search for any buried pipelines or anything else that’s put in by a utility company and they will mark it using paint and flags so that you or your contractor can stay well clear of any problems,” Small told MetroNews.

Under the law changes which took effect on July 1, the Underground Facilities Damage Prevention Board is being created to investigate damage to underground facilities and recommend actions for violators of the law.

Board work will focus on damage prevention, public awareness, training and education programs tied to the One Call system.

Additionally, the law changes members of the Legislature approved earlier this year eliminated an exemption for privately-owned water companies.

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