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Geoff Greenwood, Communications Director
515-281-6699, geoff.greenwood@iowa.gov
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Aug 10, 2012

Excavators Tied to Major Natural Gas Pipeline Explosions Agree to Maximum Penalties

Both failed to contact Iowa One Call, causing separate ruptures and explosions in April

(DES MOINES, Iowa)  Two Iowa excavators have agreed to maximum civil penalties for violating Iowa’s One Call law, in separate cases that led to natural gas explosions in two counties in April.

 

Attorney General Tom Miller today filed two lawsuits to enforce Iowa’s One Call law in Plymouth and Jackson Counties.  In both cases, excavators failed to provide a 48-hour notice of the 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 in both cases.

 

The defendants have entered into consent decrees assessing the maximum civil penalties and permanently enjoining them from further violations of the One Call law.  Today Miller submitted the proposed decrees for court approval.

 

“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.”

 

For photos of incidents, click here.
For audio of the news conference (.mp3), click here.

 

Plymouth County

On April 25, Patrick and Cynthia DeRocher, d/b/a DeRocher Construction, failed to provide a 48-hour notice of excavations to install drainage tile in rural Plymouth County, near Hinton.  During the excavation, DeRocher’s tile plow hit and ruptured a 24-inch diameter natural gas pipeline.  The dig was also 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 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), scorching approximately 80 acres, destroying the defendant’s tiling plow and bulldozer, destroying an overhead high voltage power line and power line poles, and causing 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.

 

One week later, on May, 2, 2012, DeRocher Construction again conducted excavations to install drainage tile, this time approximately ¼ mile from these same pipelines, without providing a 48-hour notice of the excavations.

 

Patrick DeRocher and Cynthia DeRocher, d/b/a DeRocher Construction, have entered into a consent decree assessing the maximum civil penalty of $20,000, and consenting to a permanent injunction against further violations.

 

For petition, click here.

For proposed consent decree, click here.

 

Jackson County

On April 27, Donald A. Kunde, d/b/a 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.  The pipeline is owned and operated by MidAmerican Energy.

 

The damage to the pipeline caused a massive explosion and fire, creating a large crater, scorching the farm fields, destroying the defendant’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.  The defendant and two employees were on site but 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.

 

Donald A. Kunde, d/b/a Kunde Dozing & Tiling, has entered into a consent decree assessing the maximum civil penalty of $10,000, and consenting to a permanent injunction against further violations.

 

“These cases should send a strong message that it’s not worth the risk not to notify Iowa One Call before digging,” Miller said.  “We will pursue those who choose to disregard this law, which protects public safety and our underground public utility lines.”

 

For petition, click here.

For proposed consent decree, click here.

 

Background on Iowa’s "One Call" Law

Iowa’s One Call Center is reached at 1-800-292-8989, or via the national 811 number.  It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.  Customer service personnel handle 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.  The Iowa One Call website is: www.iowaonecall.com.

 

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 of charge 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.

 

For more information about Iowa One Call, contact Ben Booth, Iowa One Call Public Relations/Communications Manager, at 515-278-8700 (work), or 515-707-3998 (cell), or benbooth@netins.net.

 

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