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Be aware of hidden pipes, wiring and utility lines

Updated May 16, 2011

During some home improvement projects, you're likely to come across hidden wiring, pipes and utility lines in your home or backyard. Unless you are very knowledgeable about plumbing or electrical systems, it's best to leave repairs to qualified contractors. But it is handy to know what exactly is inside your walls.

Most utility lines are encased in plastic PVC pipe. Home builders and contractors use standard, specific colors for each type of line to help minimize accidents. White pipes denote water, gray indicates electrical wiring and yellow is used exclusively for gas. If you are handling repairs yourself, be sure to adhere to these color codes. Outdoors, the City of Cerritos uses light purple PVC pipe for its recycled water system, which irrigates public parks and street medians.

About 90 percent of Cerritos homes have an "easement," where utility companies have run underground lines. If you're planning to dig on your property where electric, water, telephone, cable television or natural gas lines may be buried, you must notify the affected utility companies at least two days before you begin work. This will protect you from possible serious injuries and from liability if your digging damages any lines. 

As a Cerritos resident, you can call one toll-free number to notify all utilities of your excavation plans and to request that the utilities mark their underground lines for you. To reach Dig Alert, call (800) 422-4133 between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The operator will ask for your address, including the city and county, and the name and telephone number of any contractors who will be handling the work for you. You will be asked to mark the area where you plan to dig with white chalk. Within a few days, a representative from the affected utility company will visit your home, check the site and mark the location of any utility lines.

If your project includes digging into any City street, alley, sidewalk or other public land, the City requires an excavation permit before you start work. Applications are available at the Public Works counter on City Hall's second floor. The permit fee is $25, plus a refundable deposit that varies based on the scope of the project.

For more information on excavation permits, call the City's Engineering Division at 916-1219. The Cerritos Building and Safety Division is also available at (562) 916-1209 to answer any questions you may have about home improvement projects.

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