Tom Miller (D)

DES MOINES, Iowa (Legal Newsline) - Excavators in four Iowa counties that failed to notify the state's "One Call" hotline prior to excavating have been ordered to pay civil penalties.

"The One Call law requires at least 48-hour advance notice before excavations, so underground lines can be marked and avoided," Attorney General Tom Miller said.

Underground facilities including gas, hazardous liquids, communications, electric, cable TV, water and sewer lines are marked before excavation.

Penalties ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 for the excavators were levied by district court judges in Boone, Hancock, Warren and Grundy counties. The court orders also prohibit further violations while resolving the attorney general's office's lawsuits.

"In each case, the excavators hit or came close to hitting natural gas or other hazardous liquid pipelines," Miller said. "Fortunately, there were no explosions or deaths this time, but the cases show why the One Call law is so important," he said.

Boone County penalized Heck's Dozer, Inc., $10,000 for two excavations in August 2008 to clear brush. A 24-inch diameter natural gas pipeline was hit and damaged during the first excavation, which the company did not give notification of for four days.

Another brush excavation by Heck's Dozer nine months later was directly over a 30-inch diameter natural gas pipeline and near two other natural gas pipelines.

In Hancock County, Scott Johnson was given a civil penalty of $5,000 for a March 2009 excavation to repair a tile line that hit and damaged a 6-inch diameter natural gas pipeline. Johnson then backfilled over the damaged pipeline and contacted the One Call Notification Center of his intent to conduct tile drainage repairs. Johnson paid $3,975.23 for repairs to the pipeline.

Another $5,000 civil penalty was handed down to Lamberti Construction Inc. in Warren County for a June 2009 excavation to install a sidewalk in Norwalk that was performed over two hazardous liquids pipelines carrying unleaded gasoline and butane.

Grundy County levied a $1,000 civil penalty on Kruger Farms Inc. for an October 2008 excavation to repair a tile line that came within 78 feet of a 20-inch diameter natural gas pipeline and within 132 feet of a 26-inch diameter natural gas pipeline.

"The One Call law protects the public, and protects excavators from injury or death," Miller said. "It protects the environment and prevents costly disruptions. It's fast, it's easy, and it's free. It just makes sense – and it's the law."

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