CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Ameren is sharing a safety reminder with the community after seeing a spike in third-party or customer dig-ins in their natural gas delivery system in central Illinois.

Brian Bretsch, Ameren’s Public and Media Relations Manager, said that since April 18, Ameren crews have responded to 25 instances where a contractor or homeowner damaged a buried gas line while digging, resulting in a gas leak. Eight of these instances happened in Champaign alone and none resulted in injuries.

Bretsch said that before digging, people should call JULIE (Joint Utility Locating Information for Excavators) at 8-1-1 in order to have underground utility lines marked. Calling 8-1-1 before digging is required by law and the marking service is free.

If JULIE determines there are underground utilities in a requested dig location, they will issue a dig ticket. Ameren will then dispatch U.S. Infrastructure Company (USIC) within two business days to identify and mark utility lines. Digging can begin only after lines are marked and the start time on the ticket is valid.

In the event an underground gas line is hit during digging, there are two courses of action to take:

  • If the strike results in a smell of rotten eggs, blowing dirt or bubbling water around the hit line, natural gas is likely leaking. Immediately clear the area and call 9-1-1, Ameren at 800-755-5000 and 8-1-1.
  • If there is no noticeable release of natural gas, stop digging immediately and call Ameren, who must arrive on the scene and make repairs before digging can resume.

People are urged not to ignore a damaged utility line and continue working. Doing so can create a more dangerous situation.