Cross Bore Awareness

Safety Recommendations for Plumbers, Drain Cleaners and Sewer Cleaners

Florida’s underground gas lines deliver safe energy to customers throughout Florida. 

Occasionally, those same lines are unintentionally drilled through another utility service – like sewer pipes – during installation. This is a cross bore and it can go unnoticed for months, even years.

Why is this important?

Most gas lines are plastic. Cutting into a gas line during the clean out process can result in serious injuries, loss of life and property damage. Worth noting, if electric lines are hit by a root cutter, shock can result in injury or death. Other utilities used for communications normally may not cause immediate injury, but communication with police and fire departments is impeded. Delayed response can result in property loss, injury or death.

Where are the gas lines?

Gas distribution lines are most often found in the right-of-way (ROW) or utility easement. Gas service lines connect the distribution lines to the meter. The illustration above shows a cross bore in the ROW and on the private ownership side of the property line.

Before you begin

Ask the owner if the neighborhood has gas service or look for gas markers. IMPORTANT: Even if the owner does not have gas service, a distribution gas line can still intersect the sewer line in the utility easement.

  • Look for signs of recent utility installation.
  • During cleaning/clearing
  • Use minimally invasive equipment such as a plumbing snake or water jet to feel for obstructions that do not resemble tree roots or other common objects.
  • When you can’t determine the cause, use a camera.

Tip for homeowners: Clogs inside the house generally affect one plumbing fixture and can be cleared with a plunger or toilet auger. Sewer lateral blockages have the potential to clog all fixtures.

If you reasonably suspect or determine the blockage is caused by a cross bore:

  • Do not attempt to clear the blockage with a mechanical device.
  • Contact the gas company providing service for that area. It is a good idea to have that contact information available for areas where you frequently work in the event of an emergency.

After clearing

  • If you used a cutting tool, check the blades for nonorganic material (plastic and cable) when the tool is withdrawn from the sewer line.

Signs of a gas leak

  • Bubbles in standing water, at clean out, in toilet or near where you inserted the cutting equipment.
  • A sulfur or rotten egg odor at the cleanout or inside the building served by the sewer line.

If you suspect a gas leak

  • GET OUT and take the homeowner with you. Warn all residents to evacuate the area.
  • Do not flip any switches.
  • Do not use any type of phone until clear of the structure a minimum of 150 feet. Structures have exploded outward to distances of 150 feet. An adjacent structure is not safe if a cut gas distribution line pushes pressurized gas into that structure.
  • Do not go back into the structure under any circumstances.

Once you are in a safe location, immediately call 911 and the gas company responsible for gas service in that area.

  • Do not return until professionals have cleared the area and structures.