Gas line right under a tree stump

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Old 03-07-19, 05:46 PM
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Gas line right under a tree stump

I cut down a dying tree on my front lawn myself, and had my front lawn marked for underground utility lines and locator marked gas line right under the stump, and electric line right next to it where the roots would be. The stump is about 19 inches in diameter. I was going to dig and cut the roots and remove the stump after getting my front lawn marked, but since there's a gas line right under the stump, I don't think I should do it.
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HOA wants the stump completely pulled out from my lawn which they will ask for again during coming spring inspection. I called my utility company, and was told they will not come out unless I smell gas near or on the stump, and even if they come out, unless they find a gas leak, they will do nothing. Their recommendation is to hire a contractor.

Now, even if I were to hire a contractor, how would they accept the job to grind or pull out the stump unless I accept the liability if the contractor hits gas or electric line? Would you say it would be safe to cut down the remaining stump further down flat even to the ground as much as possible, and let it naturally decompose over 5+ years? If that's safe and if the roots won't further grow underground I may have to go that route and explain the situation to HOA. The tree had been on that spot for 15 years, planted by the builder before I bought the home. My neighbors have the tree in about same spot as me on their front lawn so I bet some of them may have their trees right over their gas line in my neighborhood.
 

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  #2  
Old 03-08-19, 05:58 AM
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I know of no stump grinder that will go deep enough to hit a gas or electric line. Most stump grinders take it down 6-9" below grade. Well above where your gas and electric should be buried. You didn't fill in your profile with location so we can't tell you how deep the utilities should be buried but you can look it up.

Also, keep this incident in mind in the future when planting. I can't tell you how often I've seen people plant trees over their utilities. Worst is over drain lines where the roots can really cause troubles.
 
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Old 03-08-19, 02:06 PM
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That's the problem with HOA. stupid rules that don't take in account things like this. Tell the HOA if they sign off of liability and responsibility you'll have it done if you can find a contractor willing to do it. What Pilot Dane says not withstanding, I would not do it. As the gas company told me when I needed to dig where the gas line entered the house, specs say one thing, but what was actually done is another. They marked the line but the guy told me it could be as deep as three feet or as little as 12" inches.
 
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Old 03-08-19, 02:16 PM
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You could dig the gas line up on either side of the stump to gauge how deep it's buried.
 
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Old 03-08-19, 05:29 PM
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l am in central Maryland. Most likely the tree was planted 15 years ago when my home was constructed. I bought the home about 12 years ago. There was a one owner before me. The tree had been not doing well for about past 5 years on and off, and last year during July 2018, I cut it down to the stump, and had drilled holes on it poured in commercial stuffs that's suppose to kill the stump which is taking a long time. So it's been about 9 months, and the stump is still solid in feel when touched. I decided to dig and remove the stump, and called utility locator before digging, and that's how I found out this problem. Had the tree not died, I would have not found out this problem.

What would happen if I do nothing at this stage? Can the stump roots further grow and disturb gas or electrical lines? The utility locator said the electric line is 2 feet deep, and said nothing about the gas line depth. My local county fire department employee said gas line is only 6 inches deep and gas lines are PVC pipes.

Even if I were to get a contractor to grind it down, the roots will still be in the ground, and how would I know whether or not the roots won't disturb the lines down the road somehow.

It seems to me the risk of trying to get rid of the stump by either grinding or extracting is greater than the risk of leaving it alone. The stump may be in process of dying along with its roots, and over about 5+ years it may just naturally decay without damaging the utility lines. I would like to get your opinions and recommendations.
 
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Old 03-08-19, 05:49 PM
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If it we me, I would leave it. But what will you HOA say?
 
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Old 03-09-19, 12:16 AM
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Does the HOA provide a landscaper to take care of all the lawns ? Get a copy of the bylaws and read up on this. Maybe you can let someone else take care of the stump. In any event, dig by hand, carefully, to find the gas line. Six inches does not sound right.
 
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Old 03-09-19, 08:32 AM
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Thanks everyone for your thoughts and advices. HOA doesn't maintain private lawns in my neighborhood. I spoke with a licensed tree person who was nice enough to speak with me on a weekend. He said in this kind of situation, there's no way he'll take the job as the risk is too high. His recommendation is to cut the stump down to the ground level as much as possible with a chain saw, and cover it with dirt and possibly use home depot products that might help in decomposing the stump faster. I think I would agree with this recommendation. He said any vibration from chain saw should not be a problem as the roots are underground pretty stationary in the soil. He said this kind of problem happens more often than expected so I'm not the only one with this problem though... What do you guys think about cutting down the tree to ground level as much possible? In my case, it looks like the root spreading of the stump has come up little bit so I think that might be an issue...
 
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Old 03-09-19, 08:47 AM
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Dig by hand to expose the gas line to find the depth. PVC does not sound right. Get back to us. (Maybe copper or black iron is inside PVC) ?
 
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Old 03-09-19, 09:53 AM
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Put a garden gnome with your house number on the stump.
Cover the circle with layers of grass-clippings, horse manure, mulch and wood chips,
spread wildflower mix on top.

There's no need to remove that stump.
There's no good WAY of removing that stump.

I spent several summers working landscaping, which included running a contractor-grade Rayco Stumpgrinder, a prior version of this one


A contractor-grade stump-grinder can cut a car in half in about 5 minutes. (It's a long story...)

A self propelled stump ginder at fast-idle will chew down 8" into the ground; (the grinder slowly pivots right and digs deeper and deeper.
On full throttle, I've gone down at least 36" if not a full 48" to grind out large oak stumps or prepping for foundations.
 
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Old 03-09-19, 10:34 AM
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Agree with Hal. Leave it. And if the HOA has a problem tell them to take care of it. You did your due diligence.
 
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Old 03-09-19, 07:17 PM
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Yes, I also agree.

However, this brings up another question. How accurate are these free underground utility line locator services? Do they, on occasions, make any error in locating and marking underground lines? Are there any affordable tools I can borrow from Home Depot or Lowes or buy that will locate underground gas and/or electric lines with decent degree of accuracy? Of course, I would factor in both the locator service result and the result of the tool if I buy such a tool. After the paint wears off, I think I would like to get it marked at least one more time from the free underground utility line locator services by another employee of theirs. That way I'll be more sure. Not sure if they'll do it again for the same reason as the 1st time.
 
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Old 09-01-19, 04:58 PM
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Locator services can be up to 10 feet off, but gas lines use a tracer wire so they are pretty accurate. National Electrical Code requires minimum coverage of 18" in non-traffic rated area (your lawn) I believe gas is the same.
Almost all non-pressurized underground conduit develops moisture in it, and tree roots find their way in. I would have someone inspect that electrical conduit for integrity, and I would check the gas line to make sure the tree hasn't pinches or compromised it's integrity.
 
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Old 09-01-19, 08:21 PM
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Utility Lines in maryland, like NJ which Im from, are normally 18" down. Thats the code and NJ and maryland are the only two states that have their own codes, but follow NFPA 54.

The mark out can be up to 18" off also.

Option I would do:

I would dig around stump and cut roots best I can. Get it where you can cut it down below grade, or get it exposed enough to get a chain around it and pull it out.

If cutting it lower then get some stump kill on it.. Stumps continue to grow even with no tree. It a living thing and will keep seaking water..

Or just call a stump grinding service. They have insurance, and they will shave it down below grade.

I had a stump ground down that was over a gas line in my old house. They took it down pretty deep too. It was a giant white oak. Those guys just know how far to chop it. They know the trees and the types of stumps..
 
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Old 09-02-19, 07:53 AM
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I get your trying to do this right, how ever the cost of doing it right could be terrible.
I suggest it is time to grab the lady of the house and go to the box store and get some bricks/blocks and create a raised flower bed. I do mean annuals.
Then let nature take over on the stump. Out of sight out of mind.
HOA's are a pain in the a - -.
Now that the tree is dead the damage it did is still unknown. Me thinks it is not as bad as it might be. Homes are build with the landscaping done last. Someone dug the hole for the tree in the beginning. That had to be at least 12" deep.

One last thing check with a realtor to find out if you will have to disclose this in your state. My state known issues are a bugger.
 
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Old 09-02-19, 08:23 AM
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Originally Posted by BeingCareful88
How accurate are these free underground utility line locator services? Do they, on occasions, make any error in locating and marking underground lines? Are there any affordable tools I can borrow from Home Depot or Lowes or buy that will locate underground gas and/or electric lines with decent degree of accuracy?
The classic way to confirm an underground pipe is to push a wooden stick into the ground.
The wire from an old political campaign sign works well; find the kind with a stiff steel wire 'U' frame; use a hand vise to straighten the corners, voila, you have ~6' of very versatile & tough wire for a probe.
Push the wire into the ground until you feel the pipe.
This works well in sandy soil, not so well in rocky soil. For clay soil, wait until after a rain, when the ground is soft and mushy.

As for digging, a basic pressure washer set to narrow stream will "drill" straight down in clay soil, and I've used the pressure washer trick to loosen up saplings before pulling them out by the roots, so that would probably be the simplest way to cut the dirt and rotten roots away while leaving the pipe untouched.
 

Last edited by Hal_S; 09-02-19 at 08:56 AM.
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Old 10-13-19, 01:35 PM
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Do it carefully.

Most states/municipalities will let you hand dig around lines, and most utilities are at least 12 deep. My take would be to hand dig around the stump carefully until 2-3 inches below grade and top that sucker off with a chainsaw, then bury the whole mess. Once its covered and not getting light it should die, worst case you may get some sucker branches coming off before it eventually will die. Then it will rot.
 
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