Recent Underground Utility Damage Prevention Act amendments took effect July 1, 2023.
This marks a significant event in the Commonwealth, as it is the first time in nearly a quarter of a century that the Act has undergone such significant modifications.
Please find below a list of frequently asked questions and answers regarding these changes, and it is likely more will arise as we move forward.
We will regularly update this page as any new inquiries are received, so we recommend checking back periodically for updated information.
Thank you for your efforts in preparing for this unique event and your continued support and feedback in facilitating a smooth transition.
Frequently Asked Questions by Topic or Section
General Questions About the Recent Law Changes
Throughout 2022, a group of stakeholders, working with the Advisory Committee and the State Corporation Commission, formed Taskforce 2022. The task force was committed to examining the Underground Utility Damage Prevention Act of Virginia to modify the law to improve damage prevention in Virginia. After months of work, the stakeholders submitted these proposed changes to the General Assembly. Both houses passed this legislation, and the Governor signed these proposals into law effective July 1, 2023. These amendments are significant as it marks the first substantial modifications to the Act in almost a quarter of a century.
Virginia’s Legislative Information System (LIS) is a platform where users can access and review the Underground Utility Damage Prevention Act in Virginia. It provides the entire updated text of the Act, including its various sections and provisions. Users can navigate through the website to explore the specific details, regulations, and requirements outlined in the Act related to the prevention of damage to underground utilities.
View the amended Act HERE
Yes. Virginia 811 is supporting stakeholders during this transition through various outreach efforts. Several virtual Law ChangeTown Hall meetings have been scheduled to review these changes.
To learn more about the meeting times and to get meeting links, please visit the Virginia 811 Events page at VA811.com/events.
Or click the link HERE
We understand that many people have questions about when the hard copy of the Virginia Professional Excavator’s Manual will be updated to include the new law changes. However, the specific timing is still to be determined.
A new PDF supplement is available that serves as an update to the manual. This appendix contains the most pertinent changes and can be printed out to keep with existing manuals for easy reference.
You can access this supplement HERE
Or follow the link here: https://va811.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/Addendum-to-Excavator-Manual-VS1.pdf
§ 56-265.19 A is a revision in the law that includes a provision allowing for scheduling of excavation up to 12 working days out, allowing more flexibility regarding the scheduling of work dates of marking. For scheduled excavations, tickets will remain open for 15 working days following the stated date of work.
Virginia 811 will introduce the option to schedule excavation in late 2023 or early 2024.
To ensure a smooth transition, we will use comprehensive notifications, updated content on VA811.com, and conduct education campaigns to inform stakeholders about the new process. Town hall sessions will also be organized to address any inquiries and provide detailed explanations.
Although we are not yet prepared to address detailed questions, please feel free to direct any inquiries to [email protected]. Our team will gladly assist you by providing any information we have available.
Section § 56-265.15 introduces four new definitions that users should familiarize themselves with. These definitions include:
“Exigent circumstances” means circumstances outside of an operator’s or contract locator’s, as described in subsection D of § 56-265.19, control that necessarily prevent an operator or locator from completing the marking task, including a wrong address provided with the locate request; failure to provide a reasonably specific location of proposed excavation; inaccessibility of the excavation site due to physical barrier or risk of serious bodily injury; a locate request that cannot be carried out by a traditional locating method and requires assistance from the operator; catastrophic technological failure outside of the locator’s, operator’s, or notification center’s control; or the area of excavation does not conform with the requirements of subsection F of § 56-265.17.
“Locate request” means the completed delivery of information to the notification center requesting markings for a specified area of excavation or demolition and receipt of the same by the notification center in accordance with this chapter.
“Positive response” means a code or phrase posted by an operator or locator to the notification center detailing the marking status of a locate request.
Positive Response System
“Positive response system” means the excavator-operator information exchange system that is required by subsection E of § 56-265.16:1 and provides the means for operators or their contract locators to respond to and report the marking status of a locate request.
Virginia 811 is supporting stakeholders during this transition through various outreach efforts. Several virtual Law ChangeTown Hall meetings have been scheduled to review these changes.
To learn more about the meeting times and to get meeting links, please visit the Virginia 811 Events page at VA811.com/events HERE.
You can also direct questions to [email protected] and our team will gladly assist you.
Notification required prior to excavation or demolition; waiting periods; marking of proposed site.
Significant changes have been implemented in § 56-265.17 of the Underground Utility Damage Prevention Act, specifically regarding notification requirements, waiting periods, and marking of proposed sites. It is crucial to review these changes to gain a better understanding of their importance and implications.
You can review the amendments to §56-265.17 HERE.
By changing the scope of a locate request to a smaller area (1/3 mile), excavators can focus their efforts on smaller sections to work in.
Consequently, we expect that these reduced work areas will significantly mitigate utility damages and bolster our overall damage prevention endeavors, and ultimately lower utility damages and enhance our damage prevention efforts to keep Virginia safe!
There have been numerous inquiries about §56-265.17, particularly related to §56-265.17 F, which states that the area covered under each locate request should not exceed one-third of a mile. You can review the amendment in §56-265.17.F for more details HERE.
Therefore, you must process three separate locate requests at one-third of a mile to accommodate an excavation project that encompasses one mile.
While there are many projects where work may not follow a straight or continuous path, it’s important to remember that one-third of a mile remains the same distance regardless. Therefore, it is crucial to determine and account for this distance accordingly.
Here are some challenging examples where locate requests should still not exceed one-third of a mile.
- When distances extend out from an intersection
- Areas of excavation that include boundaries (bounded areas)
- Meeting Locate Requests
- Width, in addition to linear work, is a factor to consider
However, a single large parcel that would exceed one-third mile is not included in the one-third mile restriction.
Below are some helpful conversions to assist you in determining the one-third mile distance:
1/3 mile = 1760 feet
1/3 mile = 587 yards
1/3 mile = .3333 (in decimal format)
If you have questions about the one-third-of-a-mile change, please attend one of our upcoming Town Hall Law Changes to learn more. You can also direct questions to [email protected].
Among the amendments in this section, three noteworthy changes deserve closer examination:
These specific revisions have undergone significant modifications, making them particularly relevant for understanding the updated requirements. Taking the time to review these changes will provide valuable insights into the implications for stakeholders.
To review the amendments to §56-265.17, click HERE
Section § 56-265.19 A
Duties of operators; regulations.
The significant revision in § 56-265.19 A includes a provision allowing excavation scheduling up to 12 working days in advance, allowing more flexibility regarding the scheduling of work dates of marking. Relative to scheduled excavations, tickets will remain open for 15 working days following the stated date of work.
Virginia 811 will introduce the option to schedule excavation up to 12 working days in advance, expected to be implemented in late 2023 or early 2024. To ensure a smooth transition, Virginia 811 will conduct comprehensive notification and education campaigns to inform stakeholders about the new process. Town hall sessions will also be organized to address any inquiries and provide detailed explanations.
For any inquiries or requests for additional information, please direct them to [email protected]. Our team will be happy to assist you and provide the necessary information you require.
Refer to § 56-265.19 A in its entirety:
“If a proposed excavation or demolition is planned in such proximity to the underground utility line that the utility line may be destroyed, damaged, dislocated, or disturbed, the operator shall mark the approximate horizontal location of the underground utility line on the ground to within two feet of either side of the underground utility line by means of stakes, paint, flags, or a combination thereof. The operator or contract locator shall mark the underground utility line and report the marking status to the positive response system by no later than 7:00 a.m. on the third working day following the excavator’s locate request, unless a scheduled excavation date is provided by the excavator to the notification center or the operator or contract locator is unable to do so due to extraordinary or exigent circumstances. Any scheduled excavation date shall not be less than 48 hours nor more than 12 working days from the date of the locate request. If a scheduled excavation date is provided by the excavator to the notification center, the operator or contract locator shall mark the underground utility line and report the marking status to the positive response system by no later than 7:00 a.m. on the scheduled day of excavation. Any locate request made on a day that is not a working day shall be considered as having been submitted to the notification center on the next working day at 7:00 a.m. If the operator is unable to mark the location within the time allowed under this section due to extraordinary or exigent circumstances, the operator shall notify directly the person who proposes to excavate or demolish and shall, in addition, notify the person of the date and time when the location will be marked. The deferral to mark for extraordinary or exigent circumstances shall be no longer than 96 hours from 7:00 a.m. on the next working day following the locate request, unless a longer time is otherwise agreed upon by the operator and excavator. The operator shall also inform the notification center of any deferral.”
Duties of excavator.
§ 56-265.24 has been amended to include the following revisions:
- Requires review of positive response system prior to commencing excavation.
- Creates stricter guidelines for conduct prior to commencing excavation after 48 hours.
- Removes “Special Project”
§ 56-265.24 A Duties of excavator has been amended:
A. No excavator shall begin any excavation or demolition before reviewing and heeding the positive response marking status of the excavation area. Any person excavating within two feet on either side of the staked or marked location of an operator’s underground utility line or demolishing in such proximity to an underground utility line that the utility line may be destroyed, damaged, dislocated or disturbed shall take all reasonable steps necessary to properly protect, support and backfill underground utility lines. For excavations not parallel to an existing underground utility line, such steps shall include, but may not be limited to:
- Exposing the underground utility line to its extremities by hand digging;
- Not utilizing mechanized equipment within two feet of the extremities of all exposed utility lines; and
- Protecting the exposed utility lines from damage.
In addition, for excavations parallel to an existing utility line, such steps shall include, but may not be limited to, hand digging at reasonable distances along the line of excavation. The excavator shall exercise due care at all times to protect underground utility lines when exposing these lines by hand digging.
§ 56-265.24 C Duties of excavator has been amended:
C. If, after at least 48 hours beginning with 7:00 a.m. the next working day following a locate request or on the date of excavation, upon arrival at the site of a proposed excavation, the excavator observes clear evidence of the presence of an unmarked utility line in the area of the proposed excavation, the excavator shall not begin excavating until three hours after an additional contact is made to the notification center for the area pursuant to subsection c of § 56-265.17 and the excavator has verified that no information has been posted to the positive response system or information posted to the positive response system is inconsistent with the clear evidence observed by the excavator.
Request to cease operation; immediate threat; penalty.
§56-265.24.1 is a newly added section to Virginia’s Underground Utility Damage Prevention Act, which became effective on July 1, 2023.
It states that any person, as defined in § 56-265.15, who knowingly and intentionally excavates after being notified by a representative of the Commission of a determination that such excavation constitutes an immediate threat to safety or property and such representative requests that excavation cease is guilty of a Class 6 felony.
Please refer to §56-265.24.1 and § 56-265.15 in their entirety.
§ 56-265.24:1. Request to cease operation; immediate threat; penalty
Notwithstanding the provisions of § 56-265.15:1, any person, as defined in § 56-265.15, who knowingly and intentionally excavates after being notified by a representative of the Commission of a determination that such excavation constitutes an immediate threat to safety or property and such representative requests that excavation cease is guilty of a Class 6 felony. The representative of the Commission shall immediately notify the agency with primary law-enforcement authority over the area of excavation, as well as the fire marshal, (i) that such excavation site is a threat to safety or property and (ii) of the request to cease excavation.
View § 56-265.15 HERE
Commission to establish advisory committee.
In section §56-265.31.A, the advisory committee is assigned an expanded responsibility to establish positive response codes for use by the notification center’s positive response system.
Please refer to § 56-265.19 A in its entirety:
“The Commission shall establish an advisory committee consisting of representatives of the following entities: Commission staff, utility operator, notification center, excavator, municipality, Virginia Department of Transportation, Board for Contractors, and underground line locator. Persons appointed to the advisory committee by the Commission shall have expertise in the operation of the Underground Utility Damage Prevention Act. The advisory committee shall perform duties which may be assigned by the Commission, including reviewing reports of violations of the chapter, establishing positive response codes for use by the notification center’s positive response system, and making recommendations to the Commission.”
Commission to impose civil penalties for certain violations; establishment of Underground Utility Damage Prevention Special Fund
The notable revisions to §56-265.32 include the increases in possible fines from $2,500 to $5,000, AND up to $10,000 for failure to contact Virginia 811 and submit a Locate Request prior to excavation (§56-265.17A).
Please refer to the following sections for more information:
§56-265.32 A is now:
“The Commission may, by judgment entered after a hearing on notice duly served on any person not less than 30 days before the date of the hearing, impose a civil penalty not exceeding $10,000 for each violation of subsection A of § 56-265.17 and $5,000 for all other violations of this chapter, if it is proved that the person violated any of the provisions of this chapter as a result of a failure to exercise reasonable care. Any proceeding or civil penalty undertaken pursuant to this section shall not prevent nor preempt the right of any party to obtain civil damages for personal injury or property damage in private causes of action. This subsection shall not authorize the Commission to impose civil penalties on any county, city, town, or other political subdivision. However, the Commission shall inform the counties, cities, towns, and other political subdivisions of reports of alleged violations involving the locality or political subdivision and, at the request of the locality or political subdivision, suggest corrective action.”
§56-265.32 C is now:
“The Underground Utility Damage Prevention Special Fund (hereinafter referred to as Special Fund) is hereby established as a revolving fund to be used by the Commission for administering the regulatory program authorized by this chapter. The Special Fund shall be composed entirely of funds generated by and for the enforcement of this chapter. Enforcement of this chapter also includes education and outreach provided by the Commission for training and educational programs for excavators, operators, utility line locators, and other persons. Excess funds shall be used to support any one or more of the following: (i) public awareness programs established by a notification center pursuant to subsection B of § 56-265.16:1; (ii) training and education programs for excavators, operators, line locators, and other persons; and (iii) programs providing incentives for excavators, operators, line locators, and other persons to reduce the number and severity of violations of the Act. The Commission shall determine the appropriate allocation of any excess funds among such programs, and shall establish required elements for any program established under clause (ii) or (iii).”