Attorney General Tom Miller filed lawsuits against four contractors, including Eagle Ridge L.C. in Marion, claiming they damaged natural gas and electrical lines during excavations without first notifying Iowa One Call to locate and mark the underground lines.
The lawsuits were filed Friday against six illegal excavations in Linn, Polk, Scott and Warren counties, according to a news release Monday. Miller claimed the excavators failed to provide 48 hours notice to Iowa One Call.
In five of the incidents, equipment hit and damaged natural gas pipelines, causing the release of gas, and in the other incident, equipment hit but didn’t damage the natural gas pipeline and instead severed an electrical line, according to the suits.
According to the lawsuits, no explosions occurred and there were no injuries, but Miller said hitting an underground electrical line can cause power outages and can shock or even kill equipment operators.
The natural gas pipelines and electrical line are owned and operated by MidAmerican Energy.
Eagle Ridge L.C. and the other contractors entered into consent decrees assessing civil penalties and permanently directed them from further violations of the One Call law. Miller submitted the consent decrees for court approval.
Eagle Ridge and Carl B. Durham of Durham Remodeling and Repair in Rock Island, Ill., were each assessed a $3,500 civil penalty, Ron Oxford of Oxford Ditching was assessed a $3,000 penalty, and Rain Pro Inc. in Pleasant Hill, was assessed a $10,000 penalty if approved by the court.
Iowa’s 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 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.