Two cases resolved with companies paying fines

DES MOINES, IOWA (April 30, 2020) — Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has filed five lawsuits this week in Black Hawk, Cerro Gordo, Delaware, and Des Moines counties over alleged violations of the “Iowa One Call” law.

Two of the lawsuits were resolved with defendants paying a civil penalty. In four of the cases, the defendants were alleged to have damaged underground natural-gas or water lines.

The One Call law requires anyone who digs, excavates, or trenches privately or commercially to first contact the Iowa One Call center for locating underground utilities.

Here are details on the resolved cases:

BLACK HAWK COUNTY

On three separate occasions in 2017 and 2018, Arends and Sons Construction failed to provide a 48-hour notice of planned excavations in Cedar Falls to install water and sewer lines and removing/replacing concrete driveways and sidewalks, according to the lawsuit. The company proceeded with the excavations without having the underground facilities located and marked. During one of the excavations, Arends equipment hit and damaged a 4-inch water main. Arends agreed to resolve the matter with a consent decree, wherein the company admitted to the violations and agreed to pay a $5,000 civil penalty in addition to injunctive relief prohibiting future violations.

CERRO GORDO COUNTY

In 2018 and 2019, Yohn Co failed to provide a 48-hour notice of a planned excavation on several occasions in Clear Lake, and proceeded with the excavations without having the underground facilities located and marked, according to the lawsuit. During several of the excavations, Yohn Co failed to exercise due care when conducting excavations and the company’s equipment hit and damaged natural-gas pipelines in the vicinity of the planned excavations. Yohn Co failed to notify the owner or operator of the natural-gas pipeline of the damage in one instance. Yohn Co agreed to resolve the matter with a consent decree, wherein the company admitted to the violations and agreed to pay a $7,500 civil penalty in addition to injunctive relief prohibiting future violations.

Here are details on the pending cases:

CERRO GORDO COUNTY

On two separate occasions in 2019, Muscatine Utility conducted excavations to install cable/internet service in Mason City and hit and damaged 1/2-inch diameter natural-gas pipelines under 60 pounds per square-inch of pressure on the property, according to the lawsuit. During the first excavation, Muscatine Utility failed to notify the owner or operator of the natural-gas pipeline of the damage and attempted to repair one of the gas lines themselves. During the second excavation, Muscatine Utility used heavy equipment in the tolerance zone of a marked utility, resulting in damage to the utility.

DELAWARE COUNTY

On two separate occasions in 2018, Klima Drainage failed to provide a 48-hour notice of excavations in rural Delaware and Linn counties, according to the lawsuit. The company proceeded with the excavations without having any underground facilities located and marked, including a 3-inch diameter natural-gas pipeline under 820 pounds per square-inch of pressure and a 36-inch diameter natural-gas pipeline under 1,920 pounds per square-inch of pressure. This will be the third One Call lawsuit against Klima (previous lawsuits were filed in 2000 and 2016), and the company was assessed total civil penalties of $14,000 in those cases.

DES MOINES COUNTY

On two separate occasions in 2018, Lumos Electric, doing business as Dave Bessine Electric, failed to provide a 48-hour notice of planned excavations in Burlington, according to the lawsuit. Lumos proceeded with the excavations to install electrical service without having any underground facilities located and marked. During both excavations, the company's equipment hit and damaged a 1 1/4-inch diameter natural-gas pipeline under 55 pounds per square-inch of pressure on the property.

Iowa One Call Law

The One Call law requires that anyone excavating, including digging, must call Iowa One Call at least 48 hours in advance of digging, to minimize the risk of damage to underground facilities, including electric, gas, communications, water, and sewer lines.

Violators are subject to a civil penalty up to $10,000 per day for violations related to natural-gas and hazardous liquid pipelines, and up to $1,000 per day involving other underground facilities. Violators also may be liable for the repair costs of damaged facilities.

Excavators, farm operations, and homeowners can notify the Iowa Once Call Notification Center about planned digging or excavating online at www.iowaonecall.com, or by phone at 811 (or toll-free at 800-292-8989). The center is open 24-hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.   Iowa One Call sends "locate utility requests" immediately to companies, which are required to mark underground utility locations within 48 hours with flags or paint showing where underground lines are located.

The One Call law has been in effect since 1993. Iowa One Call is paid for by owners and operators of pipelines and other underground facilities. Services provided by Iowa One Call are free to homeowners, contractors, and professional excavators.

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