Two people killed in Pella incident
DES MOINES — Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has filed “Iowa One Call” lawsuits in Marion and Appanoose counties alleging contractors conducted illegal excavations, including one that led to the deaths of two people.
The cases were resolved with consent decrees, with civil penalties totaling $13,000. The defendants admitted to the violations and agreed not to violate the One Call law in the future.
The One Call law requires anyone who digs, excavates or trenches privately or commercially to first contact the Iowa One Call center to locate underground utilities and to exercise due care when excavating in a marked area to avoid damaging the underground utilities. The law also requires that the owners and operators of utilities timely and accurately locate and mark underground facilities in response to a locate request for a planned excavation.
The two cases:
MCS Communications, Concord, N.C.
Civil penalty: $10,000
According to the petition, MCS failed on six occasions to exercise due care when conducting excavations to install fiber optic cable in Pella in 2020. On Aug. 1, 2020, a MCS crew hit an electrical line with a jackhammer, resulting in the electrocution of two employees and the injury of a third. Other excavations damaged natural gas pipelines and a telecommunications line.
The maximum penalty allowed under the One Call law is $10,000 for each day of violations involving natural gas pipelines, and $1,000 for each day of violations involving other underground lines.
MCS agreed to resolve the matter with a consent decree, wherein the company admitted to the violations and agreed to pay a $10,000 civil penalty in addition to injunctive relief prohibiting future violations.
Separately, the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued several citations to MCS. The company paid a $12,250 penalty as a result.
Hawkeye Paving Corp., Bettendorf
Civil penalty: $3,000
According to the petition, Hawkeye failed to provide 48 hours’ notice of two planned excavations for manhole adjustments and sub-drains in Centerville in 2021. Hawkeye crews proceeded without any underground lines being marked, and during one excavation, hit and damaged a ¾-inch diameter natural gas pipeline.
Hawkeye agreed to resolve the matter with a consent decree, wherein the company admitted to the violations and agreed to pay a $3,000 civil penalty in addition to injunctive relief prohibiting future violations.
Iowa One Call Law
The One Call law requires that anyone excavating, including digging, must contact 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 One 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.
IOWA ONE CALL MEDIA CONTACT:
Ben Booth, Iowa One Call Public Relations/Communications Manager
To report an alleged One Call violation by an owner/operator for inaccurately locating an underground facility or to report an alleged One Call violation of an excavation near an underground utility, go to the Iowa Attorney General’s website.
To report an alleged violation by an owner/operator for a late/non-response to a locate request, please email the Iowa Utilities Board with a subject line of “Late/Non-Response Locate Complaint.” Please also include the list of One Call ticket number(s); name of the company filing the complaint; contact information for the submitting party; and copies of any communications with operators or locators.