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December 30, 2014

Miller Files Seven Lawsuits for Alleged "Iowa One Call Law" Violations

(DES MOINES, Iowa) Attorney General Tom Miller Monday filed seven lawsuits in six counties over alleged violations of Iowa’s One Call law.  The suits involve excavations in Linn, Palo Alto, Jasper, Woodbury, Franklin, and Pottawattamie counties.  All seven cases involve natural gas lines.

  • Knutson Construction Services Midwest Inc. (Linn County)

According to Miller’s lawsuit, on July 22, 2013, Knutson Construction Services Midwest Inc., of Iowa City, conducted an excavation to remove concrete and install short vertical posts, called crash bollards, at the Cedar Rapids Public Library at 450 5th Avenue S.E. in Cedar Rapids.  Knutson conducted the excavation within a few feet of a natural gas meter without first contacting the Iowa One Call notification center and, thereby, failed to provide notice to operators of underground facilities.  During the excavation, Knutson hit and severed a one-inch diameter natural gas pipeline.  Natural gas leaked but did not explode.  MidAmerican Energy repaired the pipeline.

The petition seeks civil penalties and injunctive relief.

  • Leroy & Sons, Inc. (Palo Alto County)

District Court Judge Don E. Courtney ordered Monday that Leroy & Sons Inc., of Arcadia, pay a $5,000 civil penalty and permanently enjoined the company from violating the One Call law.

According to Miller’s lawsuit, on May 9, 2014, Leroy & Sons Inc. conducted an excavation to clean out a waterway in in rural Palo Alto County, Iowa, without first contacting the Iowa One Call notification center and, thereby, failed to provide notice to operators of underground facilities.  During the excavation, the company’s bulldozer and road grader went directly over a four-inch diameter natural gas pipeline, removing six to eight inches of soil cover.

  • Norm Rozendaal Tiling Inc. (Jasper County)

According to Miller’s lawsuit, on November 1, 2013, Norm Rozendaal Tiling Inc., of Monroe, conducted an excavation to install drainage tile in rural Jasper County, without first contacting the Iowa One Call notification center and, thereby, failed to provide notice to operators of underground facilities.  During the excavation, the company’s tiling equipment hit and damaged a four-inch diameter natural gas pipeline.  The damage resulted in the release of natural gas and emergency response by Northern Natural Gas, the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, and the Monroe Fire Department.  During pipeline repairs, Northern Natural Gas utilized natural gas bottle trucks to maintain service in Colfax, Prairie City, and Monroe.

The petition seeks civil penalties and injunctive relief.

  • Olmstead Construction Inc. (Linn County)

According to Miller’s lawsuit, on June 27, 2013, Olmstead Construction Inc., of Cedar Rapids, conducted an excavation at 101 8th Avenue in Marion, without first contacting the Iowa One Call notification center and, thereby, failed to provide notice to operators of underground facilities.  During the excavation, the defendant’s backhoe hit and severed a one-inch diameter natural gas pipeline.  Natural gas was released but did not explode.  MidAmerican Energy subsequently repaired the pipeline.

The petition seeks civil penalties and injunctive relief.

  • Perez Construction (Woodbury County)

If approved by a judge, Sindy Perez d/b/a Perez Construction, of Sergeant Bluff, will pay a $3,500 civil penalty and will be permanently enjoined from further violations of the One Call law, through a proposed court order called a consent order.

According to Miller’s petition, on June 1, 2012, Perez Construction requested locates of underground facilities for an excavation to install a fence at 3104 Jones Street in Sioux City.   During the excavation four days later, the company’s equipment hit and severed a one-inch diameter natural gas pipeline.  The defendant failed to notify the owner of the pipeline, MidAmerican Energy, of the damaged pipeline.

The defendant or the defendant’s employee attempted a crude repair to the pipeline by attaching a mechanical coupling, wrapping the pipeline with duct tape, pouring cement over the damaged pipeline, and then backfilling over the pipeline.

Nearly two years later, a neighbor reported to MidAmerican Energy a strong odor of gas.  MidAmerican Energy investigated and determined that the pipeline had been damaged and was leaking.  MidAmerican turned off the gas flow and repaired the pipeline.

The petition seeks civil penalties and injunctive relief.

  • Roy E. Plagge (Franklin County)

District Court Judge James M. Drew ordered Monday that Roy E. Plagge, of Latimer, pay a $5,000 civil penalty and permanently enjoined Plagge from violating the One Call law.

According to Miller’s lawsuit, on September 22, 2014, the defendant conducted an excavation to install drainage tile in rural Franklin County, without first contacting the Iowa One Call notification center and, thereby, failed to provide notice to operators of underground facilities.  During the excavation, the defendant’s tiling equipment hit and damaged in two locations a four-inch diameter natural gas pipeline.  The damage resulted in leaking natural gas but no explosion.  The defendant notified the owner of the pipeline, Northern Natural Gas of the damaged pipeline.  Northern Natural Gas, the Franklin County Sheriff, and the local fire department dispatched emergency response staff to the site.  During pipeline repairs, Northern Natural Gas used natural gas bottle trucks to maintain service in Chapin, Rockwell, and Sheffield.

  • Wes Casson & Son, LLC (Pottawattamie County)

District Court Judge Timothy O’Grady Monday ordered that Wes Casson & Son LLC, of McClelland, pay a $5,000 civil penalty and permanently enjoined the company from violating the One Call law.

According to Miller’s lawsuit, on November 11, 2013, the company conducted an excavation to install drainage tile and terraces in rural Pottawattamie County, without first contacting the Iowa One Call notification center and, thereby, failed to provide notice to operators of underground facilities.  During the excavation, the company’s tiling equipment came to within seven feet of an eight-inch diameter natural gas pipeline, and during terracing went directly over the pipeline.

Background on Iowa’s One Call Law

The Iowa One Call Center, at 1-800-292-8989, or 811, is open 24-hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.  The center handles more than 50,000 calls a month during peak seasons.  Iowa One Call sends "locate requests" immediately to utility companies, which are required to mark underground utility locations within 48 hours with flags or paint showing where underground lines are located.

Utility operators locate and mark underground facilities such as gas, hazardous liquids, communications, electric, cable TV, water, and sewer lines.  Each year, Iowa One Call handles more than 400,000 incoming calls, and coordinates more than two million underground facility "locates" in Iowa.

Iowa’s One Call law (Iowa Code Ch. 480) 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.

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.

The Iowa One Call website is: www.iowaonecall.com.

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