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I'm replacing a fence in my backyard. Some of the new posts will not be in the old holes. While digging a new hole, I came upon a pipe which is in the way. I don't know what it is for and I'm unsure if it's safe to put a post next to it.
I can see some hairline cracks in it, which may have been caused by the temporary post I put in next to it.

A grey pvc pipe in the ground

This is in the Netherlands. The pipe seems grey pvc, at a depth of about 40 cm. Its diameter seems about 40 mm. (which is a standard diameter).
It comes from under my (paved) backyard and disappears under the street. The picture above is right next to the gutter of the road behind my backyard, so it's at the edge of my property. There is no manhole or drain in the road where it could be leading to.

Pipes should be at a depth of at least 60 cm, so that's the first mystery. Gas lines should be yellow, power lines should be red, so it should be neither of those. The rain pipe coming from the roof is wider, so while that is connected to the sewers somewhere, it's unlikely to be connected to this pipe.
It could be drainage, but then I don't know where it's heading.

I'd like to know what this pipe could be, and if it's safe to put a post next to it, possibly putting some stress on the pipe, or what measures I should take to protect the pipe.


In the end, I just put the post right next to it. It's now covered with soil again and paved over.

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  • Have you tried cutting it open and having a look at what comes out?
    – Valorum
    May 14 '17 at 12:19
  • 8
    @Valorum famous last words.
    – SQB
    May 14 '17 at 12:31
  • There's also a reasonable chance that if you chop it, you'll get a free consultation visit from whoever it belongs to.
    – Valorum
    May 14 '17 at 12:34
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    I would not cut into it. In the US that would be electrical.
    – Tyson
    May 14 '17 at 14:04
  • @wallyk nothing at all.
    – SQB
    May 14 '17 at 16:02
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This is not a utilty line, it's an electrical conduit pipe. Previous homeowner ran an electrical line. Perhaps a sprinkler line. The line is going to exit the ground somewhere. Look around your property for the same-sized pipe.

This could also be what remains of an abandoned line.

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This does look like large electrical conduit for a transformer that would supply multiple meters (say 4 to 12 dwelling units). Contact the electrical supply authority and describe the location and send a picture. The cracks may be repairable from the outside without interruption of service, but if water infiltrates then it might necessitate a more involved repair.

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  • 4
    All outside conduit is defined as wet on the inside. No matter how perfect the condition of the pipe or joints, condensate will ensure that it is, in fact, wet on the inside. All wiring rated to be in exterior conduit is listed for wet locations. "Water infiltration" is a yawn, and folks that fret about keeping water out of conduits are a sure sign that they don't understand exterior conduits.
    – Ecnerwal
    May 14 '17 at 16:51
  • Criticisms noted. I understand now that water infiltration is not a fault condition. I observed placement of heavy underground conduit to solve the problem of a shorting original 45-year-old direct buried cable from the power pole behind our house under the concrete alley to a transformer on the next street. I made some wrong surmises. Should I edit the answer to correct my wrong statements or let the comments provide correction? May 14 '17 at 17:07
  • While not impossible, not very likely. The meters are all at the front of the house, while this is in my backyard.
    – SQB
    Jun 18 '19 at 14:44
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[No idea why this ancient question sits at top of list, but I'll add some tips since I'm here.]

Avoiding mains

If you find a gray PVC pipe like this in backyard, it can be multiple things. First off, grab a "wire detector" for finding cable runs in walls and put it to the pipe. If it beeps - don't touch, it means there's mains inside. You can try shutting off all breakers in your house to see if it is "your" power or something foreign. If it remains energized, call utility company and ask them to check it. Its not labelled, its too shallow, it should not be there. No beep? Continue below.

Avoiding telecoms

It could be telecomunication cables. Telephone, cable TV etc. There is no good way to check without looking inside, but your country may have a publicly available database of all the known telecom/utility lines. [My country does and you can see where the gas, tv etc goes - awesome for planning!]. If its not available online, maybe your city hall knows how to get hand of it - they usually should have those available and may let you have a peek if you're nice. When you get hold of plans, check all the lines/cables that go vaguely nearby - they could be misplaced on maps, or someone moved them in the ground. Since its nearby fence, its even possible Your fence is in the wrong place and would need to be moved.

Calling your TV/Phone company

It is possible someone put the cable drop to your house, but didn't label it on public plans. Telecoms do that. If you have cable tv/internet/phone, try contacting them. If you know the locations of other incoming lines, you can subtract this from the equation and call who remains.

Old abandoned lines

No one removes old lines/cables, so its possible you have an old abandoned telephone line or something. If you are sure it comes from road to your house, it is not mains voltage, it is not your phone/cable/internet, and its not some drainage pipe, and it absolutely must go because you need to put something in, you can try opening it to see what's inside. You can also dig out couple feet in both directions and slightly bend it out of the way, then cover again with dirt.

This post assumes you double checked its not a gas pipe or incoming water pipe (not likely given the kind of plastic, but who knows)

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  • "No idea why this ancient question sits at top of list, but I'll add some tips since I'm here." It's because I added a tag, the-netherlands.
    – SQB
    Aug 7 at 5:07

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