Sewer Line Safety Inspections Begin

Columbia Gas to conduct inspections starting May 20


MAY 10, 2019 — As part of its ongoing safety program, Columbia Gas is planning to conduct sewer line safety inspections in some Staunton neighborhoods. These inspections will be conducted throughout the year.

These inspections typically involve inserting a camera into sewer lines (service laterals, main lines and storm sewers) from the street to identify and address any locations where natural gas pipelines may have inadvertently been installed through a sewer line. These so-called “cross bores” can create an unsafe situation if mechanical devices are used to clear clogged sewer lines.

Columbia Gas is conducting these inspections in partnership with the city’s Public Works department, and the company will notify the city before inspections take place at a given location. We will not need to access any residences at this time but may need to notify some homeowners at a later date if further inspection is needed.

Below is additional information about Columbia’s sewer line safety program. Questions can be directed to Cley Bullock, project lead, at 434.660.2541 or or Monique Finneran, director of communications & community relations for Columbia Gas at 804.777.3079 or

What is a cross bore and how does it happen?

Many utility companies use trenchless technology to install pipelines and cables below the ground with minimal excavation or disruption to surface features. This proven construction practice provides an alternative to open trenching and helps reduce road closures, minimizes restoration costs, and allows for safe and efficient utility construction in established neighborhoods or urban areas.

Prior to any construction, utilities and contractors are required to call 811 and request the marking of all utility lines in the area. In the past, sewer lines were sometimes not marked or marked incorrectly, leaving the potential for natural gas lines to be bored through the sewer lines, resulting in a cross bore. A cross bore can go undetected for months or even years. Eventually, if a sewer backup develops, a plumber is called to remove the blockage. Plumbers often use a mechanical rotary device to remove a blockage from a clogged sewer line. This practice can damage the utility line and create an unsafe situation allowing natural gas to migrate into the sewer system and even into homes and buildings.

You can read more about cross bores on our website at

Important sewer line safety tips

  • Call 811 before clearing a sewer line. This free service will alert utility companies of your plans and allow underground utilities to be marked. If the markings show that an existing underground utility line crosses the path of the sewer line, it may be a cross bore that is causing the blockage.
  • Be alert to the signs of a natural gas leak, including hissing sounds, a distinctive rotten eggs odor, blowing dirt or bubbling water (in a sink, toilet, or other area where water collects). If you suspect a gas leak, immediately leave the area and from a safe place call 911 and the Columbia Gas Emergency Number at 1-800-544-5606.
  • If you suspect or determine a blockage is caused by a cross bore:
    • Stop all work
    • Do not attempt to clear the blockage with a mechanical device
    • Contact and get help from any utility provider(s) that may be involved, including Columbia Gas

About Columbia Gas

Columbia Gas of Virginia delivers safe, reliable and clean natural gas to more than 265,000 customers in portions of Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, suburban Richmond, Central Virginia, Shenandoah Valley, Lynchburg region and Western Virginia. With headquarters in Chesterfield County, the company is one of the seven energy distribution companies of NiSource, Inc. (NYSE: NI) serving 3.8 million natural gas and electric customers. Always call 811 before you dig and Dig with CARE.


Media Contact:
Monique Finneran
Director, Communications & Community Relations at Columbia Gas