Two contractors responsible for separate natural gas pipeline explosions in April in Jackson and Plymouth counties have agreed to maximum civil penalties for violating Iowa’s One Call law.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller on Friday filed lawsuits against DeRocher Construction and Kunde Dozing & Tiling for failing to provide a 48-hour notice of excavations so that underground facilities could be located and marked.
During the excavations to install drainage tile, equipment hit and ruptured high pressure natural gas pipelines, causing massive explosions and fires, injuries to two people in one case, and substantial property damage.
Both companies have signed consent decrees requiring them to pay the maximum civil penalty and prohibiting them further violations of the law. Miller submitted the proposed decrees for court approval.
On April 27, Donald Kunde, doing business as Kunde Dozing & Tiling, failed to provide a 48-hour notice of excavations to install drainage tile in rural Jackson County, near Zwingle. During the excavation, Kunde’s tiling equipment hit and ruptured a 16-inch diameter natural gas pipeline owned and operated by MidAmerican Energy.
The damage to the pipeline caused a massive explosion and fire, creating a large crater, scorching farm fields, destroying the Kunde’s tiling equipment and causing substantial property damage to the pipeline company, including loss of natural gas, damage to the pipeline, repair and remediation costs.
Natural gas customers lost service during repairs. Kunde and two employees managed to escape without injury.
Fire departments from La Motte, Bellevue, Key West and Bernard, and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office responded to the incident.
Kunde Dozing & Tiling will pay a $10,000 civil penalty for violating the One Call Law.
On April 25, Patrick DeRocher, co-owner of DeRocher Construction with his wife, Cynthia, failed to provide a 48-hour notice of excavations to install drainage tile near Hinton in rural Plymouth County. During the excavation, DeRocher’s tile plow hit and ruptured a 24-inch-diameter natural gas pipeline.
The dig was approximately 100 feet from another 16-inch-diameter natural gas pipeline. Both pipelines are owned and operated by Northern Natural Gas.
The damage to the 24-inch pipeline caused a massive explosion and fire, injuring two employees who were hospitalized, creating a large crater (approximately 100 feet long, 35 feet wide, and 30 feet deep) and scorching approximately 80 acres of farmland.
The explosion also destroyed DeRocher’s tiling plow and bulldozer as well as an overhead high voltage power line and power line poles, and caused substantial property damage to the pipeline company including loss of natural gas, damage to the pipeline, repair and remediation costs.
The Remsen Volunteer Fire Department, Hinton Volunteer Fire Department, Lawton Fire Department, Le Mars Volunteer Fire Department and Plymouth County Sheriff’s Office responded to the incident.
On May 2, DeRocher Construction again conducted excavations to install drainage tile approximately one-quarter mile from the same natural gas pipelines, without providing a 48-hour notice of the excavations.
Patrick and Cynthia DeRocher entered into a consent decree assessing the maximum civil penalty of $20,000, and consented to a permanent injunction against further 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.”