In light of many close calls with farm taps as well as the danger that exists with farm taps, GSOC is taking the proactive step to put together this Farm Tap Alert to try and help persons living and working near farm taps to understand what they are, what they may look like, why they exist and provide some ideas to work around them more safely. Please note this information is provided for general education only, and GSOC asks that any specific questions regarding farm taps be directed to the gas service provider or the Minnesota Office of Pipeline Safety.
More than 45 years ago, natural gas pipelines gave landowners an opportunity to hook up to and receive natural gas directly from the pipeline in exchange for the right to install pipeline across their property. This connection to the gas pipeline is generally known as a “farm tap”. A farm tap is a private gas line. This means that all the equipment from the outlet of the meter (usually, but not always located close to the pipeline) to the house (or other significant building) - including the odorizer and gas fuel line – belongs to the landowner. As such, the owner is responsible for the general operation and maintenance, as well as any repairs and locating, of the equipment and gas line.
Farm taps are very common and are still supporting farms today. As farms have expanded and more houses and/or buildings have been added to the property, the number of lines has expanded. These gas lines may be simply serving the homestead on the property or they may have become a private network of lines serving multiple buildings on the farm. This could include corn dryers, milk houses, barns, garages as well as the homestead on the property. Not only may a farm tap serve a farm, but as time has passed since their installation, a number of additional buildings (including houses may be “downstream” of the farm tap) may have been added to the farm tap service. Extra lines may have been added at different times to not only serving the main farm, but also now serving multiple homes that have been built on the original acreage of the family farm. The difficult dilemma the public faces with farm taps are most of the original gas lines coming off the farm tap which have been installed with little documentation or mapping of any kind, including the expansion to other residents on the property.
Be a detective and look and ask about Farm Taps!
As an excavator, it is important that you are aware of the existence of farm taps at your job sites, and understand that the gas lines feeding the homestead or other significant buildings on that property will not be located by contacting Gopher State One Call. If you are excavating in any area where a farm tap may be present, you will need to become a detective at your job site. Speak with the land owner and see if they have any documentation of the farm tap, or any maps of the location of the farm tap itself and direction of the gas line. For your safety, and the safety of your crew, you’re going to want to ask as many questions as you can about the farm tap you are working around:
• Is there more than one gas line on the property branching off the farm tap?
• What type of product is the farm tap providing?
• Do you have any maps or sketches of the gas line?
• Does the gas line cross under any driveways?
• Has the farmer ever had the farm tap located before?
• What pipeline operator owns the pipeline that the farm tap comes off of?
Some tips when processing tickets through GSOC where Farm Taps may be present.
Gopher State One Call has some suggestions that may help you be more clear in processing tickets through GSOC’s E-Ticket system or when calling tickets into GSOC.
Design Locates: If your work is greater than 90 days out, you can process a design ticket which will allow you to request any maps of the utilities present at your job site. Keep in mind a design ticket is a non-excavation ticket, so you will have to process a second ticket closer to the time you plan on starting your excavation. A design ticket does provide a mechanism to request maps from each of the utilities near your site, hopefully giving you a better idea where that farm tap may exist on the property.
Pre-Con Meet: The pre-con meet will allow you to meet with all utilities at your job site to discuss any issues or concerns you have about the job site. This ticket has a 15 day time period on it, so it again is one you would process in advance of any excavation taking place. It is also a non-excavation ticket, so a second ticket would need to be processed prior to breaking ground. This does, however, provide you with another avenue to attempt to obtain knowledge in front of your excavation of the farm tap and its location, due to your meeting at the job site with the utility representatives.
Appointment or Meet Ticket: A meet ticket is a request by the excavator for an on-site meeting with locators of the utility companies in the general area where the excavation site is located. The benefit to a meet ticket is it allows an excavator to request a face to face interaction with the utility representative at the job site. If there are any concerns or issues at the time, it can be addressed and the job site can be walked by all parties. The issue of not all locators showing up at the time of the meet is one of concern for us here at GSOC as well.
Adding Special Notations to Tickets Where Farm Taps are Suspected: The “comments” section of the GSOC ticket can be a powerful tool for the excavator (professional or homeowner) in communicating with the utilities. The comments section is a way for the excavator to communicate directly with the utility. This field is transmitted in full to the utility by GSOC. In the case of Farm Taps, it would be very appropriate for an excavator to put a comment such as the following in every ticket where a farm tap may be present:
“Excavator wants to know of the presence of any farm taps at the job site. Please call the above number with any information of existence and direction they run. Excavator also requests any maps or as-built drawings be supplied."
This is one way to help communicate your concerns directly to the utilities that supply gas to the farmer.
Evaluating Your Ticket Size: Since a farm tap may come from an unexpected direction, or may originate from an address different than the excavation address, use caution in defining the size of your excavation area. Ordinarily the goal is to limit the size of the excavation site to the smallest area that covers where you are actually digging. However, you need to ensure that the excavation site includes where the farm tap is located in order to ensure that the pipeline company involved is notified. Since the farm tap may originate in the middle of a field, or come in from another direction, ensure your excavation area (or address) includes the farm tap. This is a situation where the Township-Range-Quarter Section descriptions may be helpful to define the excavation site.
Hiring a Private Locator: In many situations, it may be helpful if an excavator or landowner hire a private locator to mark out the location of farm tap lines. Since in some or most instances there will be no maps maintained by the pipeline company as to where the farm taps may be, this may be the only way to determine the routing of the private gas lines within the property itself. A listing of private locators who may be of assistance to you is located here. You may also be able to find a private locator in the telephone yellow pages or online.
Learn more about Private Facilities on any property where you are excavating in Minnesota.
Gopher State One Call has created a series of Private Facilities education materials on its website. Private facilities include farm taps but also a series of other risks from underground facilities that may be present at any excavation site and not located by utility companies when you contact GSOC. To access these materials please click here.
Learn more about Gopher State One Call.
To learn more about Gopher State One Call or the services we offer please feel free to visit our website: www.gopherstateonecall.org