By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota utility companies want to make sure the clogged sewer line that might be under your home doesn’t turn into an expensive problem.

They want people to use the program Call Before You Clear. It started eight years ago, which was not long after a gas leak from sewer work caused a home to blow up in St. Paul.

It was a chaotic scene on a snowy winter day in St. Paul in early 2010. Trista Meehan’s home exploded on Villar Avenue, and luckily, she survived.

Investigators determined a sewer contractor punctured a gas line that happened to be running through a sewer pipe in her yard.

“A lot of times when they’re clearing their sewer lines, they might think it’s a tree root,” Becca Virden, spokeswoman for CenterPoint Energy said.

In reality, the root might be a gas line that inadvertently crossed through a sewer pipe on a homeowner’s property. It’s called cross boring. The concern comes when the sewer pipe clogs.

Contractors, plumbers or someone who rents an auger might not realize a gas line is running through it when they start to dig.

“What we’re trying to prevent is any serious injuries to life or property,” Virden said.

CenterPoint Energy, along with Xcel Energy, Minnesota Energy Resources and Greater Minnesota Gas are behind the Call Before You Clear initiative. The idea is to have plumbers or contractors call their utility company before unclogging the sewer line. Workers with the utility companies will then determine if a camera inspection of the sewer line is necessary, and if so, cover the costs.

After the 2010 explosion, companies like Xcel and CenterPoint proactively inspected their customers’ sewer lines to check for cross boring. But they feel the quick call before digging remains necessary.

“That also means calling 811 and having the natural gas utility lines located under the ground to make sure there’s not a conflict,” Virden said.

WCCO talked with a plumber, who said customers are sometimes so concerned with a clogged sewer pipe backing up in to their home that there’s no time to call utility companies, only time to make the repairs.

Virden said she understands a plumber’s time is money, but she hopes this campaign reminds plumbers and contractors to put safety first.

Click here to learn more about Call Before You Clear.

Click here to learn more about 811, the number to dial to have all utility lines identified on your property.


Jeff Wagner


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