Iowa AG reaches agreements with excavators

Bryan Cohen Aug. 15, 2012, 12:26pm


DES MOINES, Iowa (Legal Newsline) - Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller announced two agreements on Friday with two Iowa excavators to resolve allegations of separately violating Iowa's One Call law and causing natural gas explosions in April.

Miller filed two lawsuits on Friday to enforce the state's One Call law in Jackson and Plymouth counties. Donald A. Kunde, doing business as Kunde Dozing & Tiling, and Patrick and Cynthia DeRocher, doing business as DeRocher Construction, allegedly failed to provide a 48 hour notice of excavations to allow for the location and marking of underground facilities.

In both instances, the excavations to install drainage tile led to the rupture of high pressure natural gas pipelines, massive explosions and fires, and major property damage. In one of the instances, two people were injured.

The defendants entered into consent decrees on Friday that assessed the maximum civil penalties and permanent enjoinment from further One Call law violations.

"These are both very serious cases that warrant the maximum penalties," Miller said. "One of the incidents caused injuries, and in both cases the excavators put themselves, emergency responders and the public at great risk. All they had to do was make one free phone call that the law requires, and they didn't do it."

DeRocher Construction allegedly failed to provide the 48 hour notice on April 25 while installing drainage tile in rural Plymouth County. The damage to the Northern Natural Gas pipelines caused a massive explosion that injured two employees. The company allegedly repeated its failure to provide the 48 hour notice one week later in a separate incident.

Patrick and Cynthia DeRocher agreed to pay the maximum civil penalty of $20,000 and consented to the permanent injunction against future violations.

Kunde Dozing & Tiling allegedly failed to provide a 48 hour notice of excavations when installing drainage tile in Jackson County. The rupture of a pipeline owned by MidAmerican Energy led to a massive explosion and fire and substantial property damage.

Donald A. Kunde agreed to a $10,000 civil penalty and consented to a permanent injunction against future violations.

"These cases should send a strong message that it's not worth the risk not to notify Iowa One Call before digging," Miller said. "We will pursue those who choose to disregard this law, which protects public safety and our underground public utility lines."

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