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Safely Dredging Next to Utilities

When dredging near utilities, the proper precautions must be taken to avoid deadly and costly mistakes. A plan must be implemented to work around them, and this is why such utilities like natural gas lines, fiber optics, and power lines are marked above ground. When these utilities are underwater, however, things become a bit more complicated.

During underwater dredging projects, contractors must cautiously excavate around buried utilities in order to clear away as much impacted sediment as possible. If a power line or gas line ruptures, it can be deadly. To avoid this, you must take the following precautions:

Do Your Research and Locate the Utilities

Finding utilities underneath a river or in marsh areas can be incredibly difficult. Because this is not a new task, the utilities could have been buried up to one hundred years ago, making them very hard to find and increasing the uncertainty of their activity. Some projects have even found active utilities that were labeled as abandoned.

Longitude and latitude (horizontal locations) have proven to be more accurate in finding these utilities, rather than using elevation. To ensure the most exact location possible, radar technologies must be used to see beneath the water.

It’s very important that you contact local utility providers in the area you will be dredging in. Communicating with these utility owners will help you decipher exactly where the utility lines are, and whether or not they’re still active. While this task is time consuming, it’s absolutely vital to your safety and those around you.

Create a Plan

There is no one way to safely dredge around utilities. Every project needs a unique plan that’s agreed upon and understood by everyone involved.

All variables must be considered when creating your dredging plan. You must effectively manage risks like GPS accuracy limits, spud placement, shallow water, and cutterhead or bucket accuracy to guarantee that your team remains safe. Be sure to always treat the utility as if it’s active, regardless of whether it’s listed as abandoned or active, and avoid contact even if it’s armored for protection. Hydrographic surveys or dive inspections are the most efficient approaches to examining exposed utilities underwater.

Establish a Buffer Zone

When creating your plan, you’ll want to be sure to include a buffer zone around the utilities. This will keep your equipment far enough away to prevent an accident. It’s recommended that this buffer zone extends a minimum of 25 feet in the horizontal direction, and up to 5 feet or higher in regards to elevation.

You can never be too careful when dredging alongside utilities, and that’s why you should always hire a professional. Here at Stan’s, we take all of the proper precautions to make sure our team and those around us remain safe. Contact us today to request a quote!

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