Pipelines exist almost everywhere throughout the U.S. and chances are you may live near or drive past one every day. Although pipelines are generally buried underground vegetation in accordance with DOT regulations, there are several ways you can see if there is a pipeline in your neighborhood.
Pipelines are marked by aboveground markers (signs, placards or stakes) to provide an indication of their presence, approximate location, and product carried, and the name and contact information of the company that operates the pipeline.
THE PRESENCE OF THESE MARKERS DOES NOT REMOVE THE NEED FOR A CALL TO 811 PRIOR TO EXCAVATION! They give an approximate indication of where a pipeline might be and must be verified through placement of a call to the local One Call Center.
The signs are generally yellow, black, and red in color.
The primary function of these aboveground markers is to identify the location of the pipeline to help the public understand the location of pipelines and prevent excavation damage accidents.
Pipelines are generally buried 3 to 4 feet under the ground or deeper. Other cases require the pipeline to be buried much deeper to go under rivers or roads. The reason for this is because sometimes these areas become shallow after years of erosion or newly dug ditches. The pipeline lies within an area called the pipeline right-of-way, which is kept clear of trees and other vegetation, buildings, or other structures. To understand more about the ROW, check out the 'What If Pipelines Cross Private Land' section.
Another thing you might see out walking in your neighborhood or driving along the road is a fenced and secured area with some aboveground piping. These secured areas often provide access to valves along the pipeline system. These valves are controlled manually or remotely to stop the flow of products in a pipeline.
Other functions of the aboveground signs and markers include identification of the pipeline for routine patrols by foot, ATV, airplanes and sometimes helicopters. Pipeline operators must patrol their pipeline corridors and inspect the pipelines valves regularly. Such surveillance is an important safety tool to ensure that unauthorized activities, including unauthorized digging/excavations/building that might damage the underground pipe, are noticed and can be evaluated immediately.