Public Utilities Commission issues solar contractor warning

The Public Utilities Commission has issued a warning stating that there have been several incidents this year involving solar contractors damaging natural gas pipelines when installing electrical grounding rods.

A spokesman said the contractors did not call the 811 number to have utility officials mark the location of gas lines before installing the grounding rods. While gas pipes are required to be at least 12 inches underground, homeowners often change the final grade of the soil on their property, leaving gas lines closer to the surface than they were when installed.

PUC officials say there was an incident in California last year in which a solar contractor damaged a gas line, causing a leak that resulted in a home explosion and a fatality.

If a gas line is damaged, PUC engineer Neil Pasqual said people should immediately cease work and evacuate the area. Then call 911 and the utility.

The PUC issued more than 25 civil penalties in 2019 to excavators and operators for violations.

The commission urges people to take advantage of the free service and call 811 before digging. Locator teams are usually dispatched within two days to mark utility lines near some one’s home of business.


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