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Note: The cause of the March 2018 gas leak in Mission Valley remains under investigation.

SAN DIEGO — A few hundred times a year, contractors will accidentally hit SDG&E’s gas lines, but these dangerous and costly accidents can easily be prevented, the utility says.

Last year, SDG&E crews were called out to repair approximately 306 natural gas lines that were damaged due to construction or landscaping activities. That’s almost one accident every day. Already this year, there have been 94 preventable strikes on gas lines, which is why SDG&E wants to get the word out about a free service it offers to help prevent accidents.

“One gas line is all it takes,” said SDG&E Operations Training Supervisor Scott Hazlett.

People doing construction of any kind that requires digging need to call 811. SDG&E crews will come out to the work site and mark the location of any buried utility-owned gas pipes and other lines free of charge.

SDG&E invited FOX 5 to the Skills City Training Center in Mission Valley, where wokers demonstrated some of the situations that utility crews encounter in the field when people dig without calling first.

“A lot of bad things can happen,” said Hazlett “You could injure somebody — one of your employees, someone out there in the public — or you could create some damage that you’re going to have to pay for the repairs.”

Hitting a gas line can result in a serious safety hazard, fires, property damage and loss of utility service, as well as lead to costly repairs. Gas leaks disrupt lives and cause a wide range of inconveniences to the public, including service outages, closed streets and calls to emergency service personnel. A lot of the digging takes place in the spring and summer as residents are doing home improvement projects.

“You could have to stop traffic down a street. You’re affecting people’s way from home or work. You may have to shut down a business,” said Hazlett.

Calling 811 before digging has been required by law since 1989. The new California Underground Facilities Safe Excavation Board (Dig Safe Board) will begin enforcing this law on July 1, 2020, with remedies ranging from requiring violators to attend training classes to fines up to $50,000.