Utility flags have been in use for as long as they can be remembered. Seeing a utility flag on your lawn or elsewhere around your apartment calls for concern. But it does not call for removal. This is because the removal of utility flags can land you in trouble with the state’s authorities.
Seeing the utility flag means some utility work is about to be done in the area. This does not necessarily mean that the work to be done would involve your lawn or house.
However, you may wonder why there are flags on your lawn without your permission or if it is allowed for utility companies to mount utility flags on your property without permission. The question of permission and the legality of you removing utility flags will be discussed in this article.
What is a Utility Flag?
Utility flags are the small, mostly orange reflective markers that are used to indicate underground utility lines. These lines can include oil, gas, water, sewers, electrical lines, and telephone lines. Utility flags are meant to protect these utility lines when future homeowners or landscapers plan on digging.
Utility flags can help prevent damage to expensive underground wires or stop gas leaks before they become possible catastrophes. This is because they are placed on public right of way.
Is it Illegal to Remove Utility Flags?
The question of legality and the right to remove utility flags from your lawn or property can be tricky. There are different laws regarding utility flags their role, mounting, and removal across different states. Utility lines are a matter of public or state-owned facilities that are meant to serve the public.
Because utility lines and flags used to mark them are placed on public rights, private individuals do not have a right to tamper with utility flags and where they are placed in most cases.
Generally speaking, you should not remove utility flags from your yard because they are meant to avoid disturbances, damage to utility lines, ensure safety during any repairs to utility lines.
If you must remove the utility flags in your lawn or backyard, make sure you call the utility company in charge of the utility lines of your area or street to ensure it is safe to remove any utility flag.
Before deciding, you want to remove utility flags on your property because you did not authorize them to be placed. Utility companies are empowered by law to place such flags, given that such utilities are considered public property by law.
The utility companies are given this right for the major purpose of public safety as these utility lines are placed underground. If they are damaged, they can lead to substantial effects on the community.
There are a few utility flags that you may remove, but you need to contact the utility company handling your area to do that. Other utility flags cannot be removed for any reason because of the utility lines they represent.
To reply to the question of the illegality of removing utility flags, yes, it is illegal to remove them. This is so given the role they play to mark public utility lines and help protect these lines in that manner.
Why are They Putting Utility Flags in Your Yard?
If you discover utility lines put up in your garden, some repair or maintenance works will be carried on the utility lines in the area. This utility line work may involve excavation and digging.
To know the exact kind of utility work and what the work may entail, you would find out from the kind of utility flags put in your yard; the flags are differentiated with varying colors.
The reason flags are put in your yard is to notify you of repair work on utility lines or the installation of a new utility line passing through your yard.
In most cases, you find flags in your yard on the occasion of a repair or maintenance going on in your neighborhood. This repair in such situations involves sections of the utility line that pass through your yard.
Different Color Flags and Purpose of These Flags
Utility flags can be of several different colors, with each of the flag colors indicating a different utility line or component. The color of the utility flag placed on your lawn or neighborhood would help you determine the type of utility line there and, in times of repair, what kind of repair work would be done.
This would help you know what kind of possible disruption the repair would cause to help you plan accordingly.
The flag colors come in the uniform color code for general designation and use. These flags aside, the color comes with symbols. The symbols also help to pass the information on the purpose of the flag even without any writing inscriptions made on the flags. The colors of the flags and their symbolism are listed below:
1. White Flag
A white flag, which usually has a shovel symbol, indicates a proposed excavation. When you see a white utility flag on your yard, prepare and make arrangements for the possible disruptions that would come from an excavation.
2. Pink Flag
A pink utility flag indicates there is a temporary survey marking going on in the area. When you see a pink flag utility flag on your yard, then you should not worry at the moment because there would not be heavy equipment moving, digging, or excavating. A standing flag symbol is drawn on the pink utility flag.
3. Red Flag
The red flag utility marking is probably one of the most important ones that should be tampered with for any reason. The red flag indicates Electric power lines, lighting cables, and conduit cable lines. The red flag comes with a bulb symbol in it.
4. Yellow Flag
The Yellow flag utility has an oil drop symbol in it. The yellow flag marking indicates oil, gas, steam, petroleum, and gaseous materials utility lines. These markings should not be tampered with by unauthorized parties for community safety.
5. Orange Flag
The orange flag has a traffic light-like symbol on it. The orange flag indicates communication lines, alarm lines, traffic loops, cables or conduit lines, and signal lines.
6. Blue Flag
The blue utility flag has a water drop symbol on it. The blue flag marking indicates portable water lines and is not to be tampered with for any reason.
7. Purple Flag
The purple flag indicates another set of utilities that should not be tampered with. The purple flag indicates Reclaimed water lines, irrigation lines, and slurry lines.
8. Green Flag
The green flag has a sinkhole cover plate symbol; the flag indicates sewage and drain lines which are also very important.
Who is Responsible For Removing Locate Flags?
Utility contractors install utility locate flags across any city or state. These utility contractors are also responsible for removing locate flags and any other utility flags installed when necessary.
In some states, property owners are the ones that have the responsibility of removing locate flags. But this authority only takes place after the initial need for the flags is completed.
In some other states, the locate flags are removed by both the state apparatus and the property owners. In such places, the state is responsible for removing locate flags that are on the streets and public places. At the same time, the flags on private property would be removed by the property owners.
How Long Do I Have to Leave Utility Flags in My Yard?
The utility flags installed in properties are to be left in place for a minimum of 6 months before they can be removed, while other states have laws that do not allow the removal of utility flags. The six months minimum time to remove flags applies after the required work is done.
In an instance where you find a flag installed on your yard and no work is done after 14 days, you can remove the flag. In some states, the law stipulates that utility flags have a 30 days duration time without any work going on before they can be removed. This means that you can only remove flags 30 days after placing them with no work done.
Conclusion: Can I Remove Utility Flags in My Yard?
Utility flags are important in the functions they play in informing people of utility lines that are specially placed underground. You can remove the utility flags installed in your yard, but you would need approval. This approval must come from the relevant state laws and the government-assigned contractor or utility company in charge of the utilities in your neighborhood.
Knowing the different flag colors’ representation helps you know what plans to make, and the kind of excavation or utility work would be done in your neighborhood. It would also help you know if you can request removal or need to wait a while before requesting one.