Is your sewer or septic line clogged or backing up? Are you ready to rent equipment or call someone to clear it out? Before you do – Call Before You Clear – Know What’s Inside.

Throughout the nation, utilities are joining together to let people know about the possibility that some underground natural gas pipes have been inadvertently installed through sewer or septic pipes – a situation commonly known as a “cross bore”. Cross bores can be dangerous because the mechanical equipment used to unclog sewer and septic pipes can easily penetrate a natural gas pipe and lead to the dangerous release of natural gas.

So before you attempt to clear a sewer or septic pipe, or have it cleared by someone else, contact the natural gas utility serving the area to ensure there are no conflicts with underground natural gas pipes.

Don't assume you know what's inside. Protect yourself and those around you – Call Before You Clear – Know What’s Inside.

Participating utilities

Available in: Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Michigan

1-800-895-2999

Alliant Energy

Available in: Minnesota

1-800-255-4268

CenterPoint Energy

Available in: Minnesota

1-855-820-0127

Minnesota Energy Resources

Available in: Minnesota

1-800-889-4970

Greater Minnesota Gas

Available in: Minnesota

1-888-931-3411

When to call

If your sewer or septic is backed up or slow to drain, your first call should be to the natural gas utility serving the area. Why? There is a possibility that a natural gas pipe could have been inadvertently installed through your sewer or septic pipe and the mechanical equipment used to unclog sewer and septic pipes can penetrate the natural gas pipe and lead to the dangerous release of natural gas.

As long as a natural gas pipe is not penetrated, it poses no safety hazard. However, if you are having troubles with your sewer or septic, or think you have a blockage, please call the natural gas utility serving the area first before anyone attempts to clear the sewer or septic pipe.

Frequently asked questions

Why would a utility not have known the natural gas pipe intersected the sewer or septic pipe?

Many utilities use underground “horizontal directional digging” to install natural gas pipes underground beneath streets, driveways, and mature trees to minimize damage. This approach is commonly used in the industry because it involves significantly less environmental impacts and disruption than open trench digging. However, because many vintage sewer and septic lines are made of clay and contain no tracer wire they are not “locatable” (where they can be identified with above ground locating devices) and a utility may have come in contact with it without knowing.

What should I do if I have a sewer or septic clog?

If you are having troubles with your sewer or septic, or think you have a blockage, make sure the natural gas utility serving the area is contacted first (either by you or your sewer/septic cleaner) before anyone attempts to clear the sewer or septic pipe. The natural gas utility will examine its records to determine if any potential conflicts exist between its natural gas pipes and whether an in-line camera inspection may be needed.

What if an in-line camera inspection is needed?

Participating utilities work with professionally trained sewer and septic camera contractors who can be sent to your location to complete an inspection. The contractor uses a special camera that goes inside the sewer or septic pipe to identify any conflicts or “cross bores” with underground natural gas lines. There is no charge for this service.

How soon ahead should I call?

If you have a blockage or are scheduled to have your sewer or septic pipe cleaned, make sure the natural gas utility serving the area is contacted first (either by you or your sewer/septic cleaner) to determine if an in-line camera inspection is necessary. There is no charge for this service.

How would I know if a natural gas pipe was penetrated while cleaning a sewer or septic pipe?

➔ A natural gas odor at the cleanout or inside the building served by the sewer or septic line.
➔ Bubbles rising through standing water or in the toilet bowl.

If these signals are present:
➔ Stop what you’re doing and have everyone immediately evacuate the premises
➔ Leave the doors open
➔ Do not turn on or off any light switches, or use other sources of ignition
➔ From a safe distance, call 9-1-1 for immediate assistance

What if I sense or see, but do not penetrate, a natural gas pipe?

Call the natural gas utility serving the area for immediate assistance to ensure that the gas pipe has not been damaged.

Photos

This illustration shows the approximate location for underground utilities. The actual depth of underground utilities varies by location. In this illustration you can see how a natural gas pipe could come into conflict with a sewer/septic pipe.

If an in-line camera inspection is necessary, a trained contractor will insert a specially designed camera into the sewer or septic pipe. The camera is typically inserted through a sewer or septic pipe in the basement or a toilet.

The sewer/septic camera contractor is able to view and track the movement of the camera in the sewer or septic pipe using a monitor.

The camera monitor displays in full color any cross bores between a natural gas pipe and sewer or septic pipe. Using this information, the drain cleaner, plumber or home owner should immediately contact the natural gas utility serving the area to notify them of the cross bore and not attempt to clear.

Underground conflicts, or cross bores, between natural gas pipes and sewer or septic pipes have been documented throughout the country.

This illustration shows an example of where a conflict, or cross bore, can occur between a natural gas and sewer or septic pipe.

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