It sounds like another way to slow you down, doesn’t it? By asking you to contact your power and utilities companies or your local government before you even begin digging on your property, you are exposing yourself to a lot of extra hassle and potential paperwork for something that is probably fairly simple. However, whether you are looking to re-landscape your property, put up a fence, dig in a swimming pool, repair your foundation, or even just plant a tree, it’s a good idea to contact the right people first. Why? Because there are hazards hiding under the soil, like buried power lines in Alberta.
Do you know what’s under your dirt?
It’s a fairly commonly explored scenario: for instance, in The Beverly Hillbillies, Jed Clampett strikes it rich when he hits black gold in his backyard. It’s the dream, isn’t it? Especially in Alberta. But not all scenarios that explore the something that lurks underground are quite so optimistic. Point of reference: Tremors. Both films explore that latent potential of the unknown and yet still familiar space—we walk around our properties every day, and still we don’t know if there is something buried there that could either make us rich—or eat us (better watch where you step). But there is a much more common and significant concern to think about when you start digging that fence post with the vague hope in the back of your mind that you’re about to find Longbeard’s treasure. That X that marks the spot indicates buried utilities—and those could be buried power lines in Alberta.
In Ghostbusters 2, the Ghostbusters drill a hole into First Avenue (because, well, since “there are so many holes in First Avenue [they] didn’t think anyone would notice”), and in the process of repelling into the hole, Ray (Dan Aykroyd) kicks out a pipe and causes a city-wide blackout. In The Burbs, Tom Hanks’s character, also named Ray, digs into his neighbours’ basement hoping to find proof (in the form of buried remains) that the ominously secretive family next door is actually a family of murderers. Instead, he hits the gas line with his shovel and blows the house up. Both 1989 films have one thing in common: they explore the hazards of letting guys named Ray dig about below the surface—but that is, more or less, the point. “Ray,” in either form—or every Ray, Tom, or Daniel—represents the everyman, the everyday person who is actually putting him or herself at risk by haphazardly digging into the unknowns of the underground without knowing what could actually be down there—whether that is underground utilities, like sewage lines, cable, Internet, etc., that could be damaged by your digging, or whether it is a more dangerous underground utility access, like buried gas lines or buried power lines in Alberta, that represent a significant risk to your wellbeing – and community – should they be disrupted.
Just because one Ray walked out of a house explosion and another didn’t become barbecued on the repel line under First Avenue doesn’t mean you are going to be as lucky. The real world doesn’t usually fit quite so perfectly into a film narrative, after all. But that doesn’t mean you can’t dig in your backyard if you want to re-landscape or dig in that swimming pool. It just means that you need to do the appropriate research so you can know for sure what you are digging into, whether that means active or old sewage lines or utilities, septic tank beds, crashed UFOs, or buried power lines in Alberta.
Stay safe out there this summer, and remember: “who ya gonna call?” Someone who can tell you what’s lurking beneath the soil in your backyard.