Stay Safe

Stay Safe

Blocked sewer line? Calling 811 can save you money — and some major headaches.

If you suspect you have a blocked sewer line, there are two very important phone calls you need to make. First, you should call a professional plumber so that the blockage can be cleared properly. Then you should call 811 so that utility lines can be marked before any work begins on the sewer line.

Calling 811 helps determine in advance if the problem could be caused by something called a “cross bore” — which means that another utility, such as a natural gas line, has been bored through the sewer line, and is impeding the flow of wastewater. Cross bores are rare, but they do happen. And they can go undetected for months or even years.

The safety benefit: Eventually, if a sewer backup develops, a cross bore can present a serious safety risk if not cleared properly. Because if an auger or other device used to clear the sewer accidentally damages the utility line, it could allow natural gas to migrate into the home. So calling 811 is the first step to alert you (and your plumber) of any potential cross bores.

The financial benefit: Though calling 811 cannot guarantee a line is free of cross bores, it will show you and your plumber whether there may be utilities around your sewer lateral, which increases the possibility of a cross bore. Once you have this knowledge, you can make an informed decision about additional services from your plumber, such as a camera inspection of your sewer line. Calling 811 is free, and there is no cost for the utility marking service.

Plumbers, download our printable brochure.

Important Safety Protocols

If you are present when sewer lines are being cleared, be alert to any unusual conditions, which may include:

  • Hissing sounds
  • Natural gas odor (rotten egg smell)
  • Blowing dirt
  • Bubbling water (which could be seen in places with standing water such as a toilet or puddle)

If at any time you suspect a gas leak or that contact with a natural gas line has occurred:

  • Evacuate the premises immediately
  • Instruct others to leave the premises
  • Contact 911
  • Contact Columbia Gas of Ohio from a safe location at 1-800-344-4077
  • Keep others a safe distance away  

Do not:

  • Operate any electrical device that may create a spark (including cell phones)
  • Operate any below ground valves
  • Turn equipment on or off
  • Operate light switches or appliances

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the sewer line safety program?

Columbia Gas of Ohio has implemented a sewer line safety program to identify and remediate cross bore situations. Along with our contractor, we partner with local municipalities to inspect the sewer lines (sanitary and storm) and take any necessary action.

How do cross bores happen?

To minimize restoration costs, many utilities use trenchless installation methods for underground pipelines and cables. This allows for safe and efficient utility construction in established neighborhoods or urban areas but can lead to cross bores when the line inadvertently intersects underground facilities.

Why is it safer for a professional plumber to clear my sewer line?

Professional plumbers know all the precautions to take when dealing with blocked sewer lines. And they know to always call 811 so that utility lines can be marked before work begins. In addition, many plumbers are equipped to do a camera inspection of the inside of the sewer line — so they can determine for certain whether the blockage is related to a cross bore.