Sewer Cleaning Safety

Why This Is Important

In rare cases, our small-diameter gas pipeline may cross through a sewer pipe. If a plumber unknowingly strikes a gas line while cutting through a sewer blockage, natural gas could enter the sewer system. We want to prevent this from happening.

Why Utility Lines Can Cross Through Sewer Lines

When a new utility line—such as a line for gas, electric, telephone, or cable television—needs to be installed in an urban area, it’s very common for utility providers to dig horizontally underground, also called directional boring. Since this installation method does not involve digging a trench, it avoids damage to sidewalks, patios, and landscaping, as well as existing utility lines marked by Underground Service Alert (www.call811.com). PG&E uses this trenchless method.

However, the sewer pipes that connect private homes and businesses to the sewer main, called "laterals," are not typically marked by Underground Service Alert, so it’s possible for laterals to go undetected during directional boring. The unintentional result is that the borehole for a utility line can cross directly through a sewer lateral, creating what is known as a "crossbore."

PG&E's Crossbore Inspection Program

Sewer inspections allow us to confirm that previous gas pipeline replacement work did not damage sewer lines.

If needed, our contractor will repair the sewer pipes and reroute the gas lines at no cost to our customers—all part of PG&E's continued commitment to providing safe and reliable gas service.

Courtesy notification: "Working in your area"

If you have received a notification that sewer inspections are beginning in your area, we have contacted you for one of two reasons:

  • Access may be required to your sewer clean-out or roof vent during these inspections. If so, our contractor will contact you beforehand.
  • No inspection is needed at your property. We simply want you to be aware of the work that our contractor will be performing nearby.

The applicable checkbox will be marked on your notification.

Courtesy notification: "Sewer inspection update"

If you have received a notification that sewer and natural gas lines have been inspected at your property, we have contacted you because your inspection is:

  • Complete: No issues were found.
  • Complete: Issues were found and repaired.
  • Incomplete: Our contractor will be returning to complete your inspection on the date written on your notification.
  • Incomplete: We need to schedule an appointment with you for additional access to your sewer line. Please call PG&E's contractor to make an appointment. (The contractor's name and telephone number will be listed on your notification.)

The applicable checkbox will be marked on your notification.

Safety Recommendations for Plumbers, Drain Cleaners, and Sewer Cleaners

In rare cases, our small-diameter gas pipeline may cross through a sewer pipe. If a plumber unknowingly strikes a gas line while cutting through a sewer blockage, natural gas could enter the sewer system. We want to prevent this from happening.

Before you begin

  • Look for trees or landscaping that could possibly be causing an obstruction.
  • Ask the resident if there has been any recent utility work in the area.
  • Use an in-line video inspection device if you have access to one, as it will help you to better assess the blockage.

Be safe: Assume that all obstructions involve a crossbore.

During the cleaning

  • Do not use a cutting tool. This applies when clearing both sewer laterals and drains.
  • Use minimally invasive equipment, such as a plumbing snake or water jet, to attempt to clear the blockage.
  • Feel for obstructions that do not seem to resemble tree roots or other common obstructions as the tool moves through the sewer line.

After you finish

We do not recommend that you use a cutting tool. However, if you have already used one, please do the following:

  • Check the blades for yellow or orange plastic when it is withdrawn from the sewer line. Natural gas utility lines are typically made of this color plastic.
  • Watch for bubbles caused by natural gas escaping from the toilet or other entry point of the cutting equipment.
  • Inspect the area with a Combustible Gas Indicator (CGI) or other gas-detection equipment, if available.
  • Provide the number for PG&E's Customer Service Line
    (1-800-743-5000)
    to the customer. The loss of gas service may not be immediately apparent.

To learn more about working safely around PG&E facilities, visit www.pge.com/contractorsafety.

In Case of Emergency

If you suspect a gas leak, immediately warn all inhabitants and evacuate the area.

Do not use a flame or anything electrical, as a spark could ignite the gas.

Once you are in a safe location, immediately call 911, then call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000.

Order Form

To order informational materials that you can hand out to your employees and safety training staff, fill out the online order form.

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