Iowa judge issues penalty against company over excavations

Bryan Cohen Jan. 11, 2012, 2:51pm


DES MOINES, Iowa (Legal Newsline) - Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller announced on Tuesday that a Polk County judge has penalized a West Des Moines company for violating the Iowa One Call statute.

District Judge D.J. Stovall ordered MJM Holdings Inc. to pay a $7,000 civil penalty for the violation. Miller alleged that on or about Sept. 21, 2010, MJM, doing business as Speck USA Inc., conducted excavations to install a loading dock in Urbandale and failed to contact the One Call Notification Center regarding the excavations.

The company also allegedly neglected to provide notice to operators of underground facilities whose facilities may have been affected by the work. MJM allegedly proceeded with the excavations without any underground facilities having been located and marked. MidAmerican Energy is the operator and owner of a two-inch diameter natural gas pipeline that runs through the area underground where the excavations occurred.

MJM's backhoe allegedly hit and severed the pipeline, causing the release of natural gas. The incident resulted in an emergency response by the Urbandale Fire Department and MidAmerican Energy, as well as an evacuation of area businesses while the pipeline was repaired.

Under the terms of the consent decree, MJM must pay a $7,000 civil penalty and has been permanently enjoined from further violations of the One Call law.

Iowa's One Call Center handled 50,000 calls a month during peak seasons and sends "locate requests" to utility companies immediately. The companies must mark underground utility locations within 48 hours with flags or paint showing where underground lines are located. The operators of utilities locate and mark underground facilities such as sewer, water, cable TV, electric, communications, hazardous liquids and gas lines.

The Iowa One Call law has been in effect since 1993 and is paid for by the operators and owners of pipelines and other facilities located underground. Violators of the law are subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per day for violations related to hazardous liquid and gas pipelines and up to $1,000 per day for violations involving other underground facilities. Violators may also be held liable for the repair costs of facilities that have been damaged.

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