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Changes to North Carolina’s Underground Utility Safety & Damage Protection Act

Authored by attorney Gretchen Ostroff

During its last legislative session, the North Carolina legislature passed House Bill 476, which changed the law regarding pre-excavation underground utility identification and safe digging practices in North Carolina.  Under prior law, many important issues related to underground utility identification were not addressed.  The changes, which are codified at North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 87, Article 8A, create mandatory underground utility procedures in North Carolina similar to what is required under Virginia’s Miss Utility laws and regulations. 

Perhaps the biggest change implemented by the new law was the creation of a “Notification Center” (NC811), which all North Carolina operators[1] are required to join. The Notification Center serves as a clearinghouse for information regarding the location of underground utilities, proposed excavations and demolitions, and reports of alleged violations. 

In addition to creating the Notification Center, the new law implemented the following changes and clarifications to existing law:

  • Notice Required Prior to Excavation or Demolition: Changed from “Not less than 2, but no more than 10 working days” to “within 3 to 12 full working days.”
  • Time for Facilities to Locate Underground Utilities: Changed from “Before the start of the proposed excavation” to “within 3 full working days after the date the notice was given.” 
  • Life of a Ticket: Not addressed under the old law, but standard policy was 15 working days; the new law provides that “all notices given shall expire 15 full working days after the date the notice was given.”
  • Tolerance Zone: Changed from “the width of the underground facility plus 30 inches on either side” to “if diameter of utility is known:  one-half of the known diameter plus 24 inches on either side of the designated center line” or “if diameter of utility is unknown:  24 inches on either side of the outside edge of the marking.”
  • White-lining: Did not exist under the old law; the new law allows excavators in certain circumstances to “designate the route, specific area to be excavated, or both by pre-marking (with white paint, flags, or stakes) the area before the operator performs a locate.”
  • Mandatory Positive-Response Postings by Operator: Under the old law, operators could choose not to provide positive-response postings; under the new law, operators are required to provide a positive response within 3 full working days after the date notice was given;
  • Damage Notifications: Excavators are required to notify both the utility operator and the Notification Center, and in certain cases 911.
  • Length of Excavation/Demolition: Not addressed under the old law; under the new law, proposed excavation/demolition cannot exceed 1/4 mile in length or five adjoining addresses. 

For more information, and to see a summary of all changes made under the new law, visit http://www.nc811.org/.  
To read the full text of the statute, visit http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/ByArticle/Chapter_87/Article_8A.html.

[1] “Operator” is defined as “any person, public utility, communications or cable services provider, municipality, electrical utility, or electric or telephone cooperative that owns or operates a facility in the state.” 



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