CGA report estimates cost of utility damage to US

The US’ utility location association, Common Ground Alliance (CGA), has released its annual report on the damage to underground infrastructure, finding that in 2016 the damage cost the US at least US$1.5 billion (AU$1.89 billion).

CGA’s 2016 Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) Report, which has summarised anonymously submitted data from facility operators, utility locating companies, one-call centres, contractors, and regulators throughout the previous calendar year, estimated the total number of underground excavation damages in the US last year rose by 20 per cent to approximately 379,000 incidents.

The report states that US$1.5 billion (AU$1.89 billion) is a conservative estimation of the societal costs associated with the damage to buried utilities; it is the first time that CGA has estimated a monetary figure of this kind.

This estimate does not include property damage to excavating equipment or the surrounding area, evacuations of residences and businesses, road closures and/or traffic delays, environmental impacts, legal costs, injuries or deaths.

Customers and users of underground facilities were the most impacted, shouldering just over 30 per cent of the total societal costs, and emergency responders absorbed more than 23 per cent of the costs.

In 2016, the damage ratio – which measures damages per 1,000 one call transmissions – increased 14 per cent from 2015; construction spending has risen such that the ratio of damages to construction spending has dramatically declined since 2004 (the first year the DIRT Report was released).

Estimated damages have stabilised to between 300,000 and 400,000 since 2010, despite increased construction activity during the period.

“The substantial estimated economic impacts of damages to underground facilities across the US likely do not come as a big surprise to damage prevention advocates who are dedicated to reducing that figure – along with the very human impacts these damages can have – on a daily basis,” said CGA President and CEO Sarah K. Magruder Lyle.

“Nevertheless, we hope that the 2016 DIRT Report’s analysis of the US$1.5 billion (AU$1.89 billion) in societal impact is eye-opening to both the industry and the public at large, and provides clear evidence that reducing damages is solidly in the public interest.

“The latest DIRT Report also examines damage prevention paradigms in other countries for the first time, which is an opportunity to consider how this information can help us can work toward our goal of zero damages.”

Other significant findings from the report included that damages caused by a failure to call 811 prior to digging have fallen to a record low of 16 per cent, part of an encouraging long-term trend.

CGA has made the findings of the report available via an interactive dashboard, accessible to the public through its website, allowing users to view and manipulate the data through the lens of a specific element, for example: damages by state, root cause analysis, etc.

The dashboard contains a series of visualisations that allow users to sort information through additional filters, giving damage prevention stakeholders a tool to focus on areas where they feel that they can have the biggest positive impact.

Added this year is the capability to filter several dashboards by state or year, including 2015 and 2016 data, as well as a new dashboard that explores the US Department of Transportation’s Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s determinations on the adequacy of state damage prevention programs.

CGA is an association comprising nearly 1,700 individuals, organisations and sponsors, covering every facet of the underground utility industry.

Established in 2000, the association is committed to saving lives and preventing damage to North American underground infrastructure by promoting effective damage prevention practices.

CGA has established itself as the leading organisation in an effort to reduce damages to underground facilities in North America through shared responsibility among all stakeholders.

For more information visit the CGA website.

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