Welcome to the Department of Justice, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller

For immediate release - Monday, September 12, 2005

Contact Bob Brammer - 515-281-6699.

Knoxville Excavator Ordered to Pay $5,000 Penalty for "One Call" Violations

A.G. had alleged excavator severed a gas line, then violated the law by failing to notify the operator of the damaged line, crudely patching the line, and backfilling over the damage.

Indianola.   Greg Coalbank, a Knoxville excavator who severed a residential natural gas pipeline in Hartford, Iowa, today was ordered to pay a $5,000 civil penalty for violations of Iowa's "One Call" law. The law requires at least 48 hours' notification prior to any underground excavation -- and requires specific steps to be taken if an underground line is damaged.

Attorney General Tom Miller filed a lawsuit in December alleging that Coalbank severed the gas pipeline in Hartford in 2003 while installing a telephone line to the house -- and then violated Iowa's "One Call" law by failing to notify MidAmerican Energy of the damage, attempting a "crude patch" of the pipeline, backfilling over the damaged pipeline, and leaving the site. MidAmerican discovered a gas leak near the home about two months later.

Miller said: "Iowa's One Call law requires at least 48-hour advance notification to the state One Call center prior to any excavation so that underground gas, electric, communications, and other utility lines can be avoided. If damage occurs to an underground line, the law requires excavators to notify the line operator and refrain from backfilling the site until the damage has been investigated. This was our first One Call enforcement action centering on an excavator's failure to comply with the post-damage requirements of the law."

The penalty was entered in a consent order, judgment and decree this morning in Warren County District Court by Judge Sherman Phipps. Phipps also prohibited any further violations by Coalbank. Hartford is just southeast of Des Moines in Warren County.

[Click here for a PDF copy of both the Courtís 9-12-05 order and the Attorney Generalís lawsuit filed 12-30-04.]

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Background on Iowa's "One Call" Law:

Iowa's One Call Center is reached at 1-800-292-8989, Miller said. It is located in Davenport and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. A team of about 50 customer service personnel handles over 40,000 calls a month during peak seasons. The One Call Center sends "locate requests" immediately to utility companies, who are required within 48 hours to mark underground utility locations with flags or paint showing where underground lines are located.

Utility operators locate and mark underground facilities such as gas, communications, electric, cable TV, water, and sewer lines.

Iowa's One Call law has been in effect since 1993. The Iowa One Call operation is paid-for by owners and operators of pipelines and other underground facilities. Services provided by Iowa One Call are free of charge to 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.

"The law protects the public and excavators alike from injury or death," Miller said. "The law protects the environment and helps prevent disruptions. I always emphasize that One Call is easy, it's fast, it's free, and it's the law," he said.

Details - Warren County lawsuit that named Greg Coalbank:

The lawsuit, which was filed Dec. 30, 2004, alleged:

Coalbank, of 1188 McKimber Street, Knoxville, Iowa, is the owner and operator of a construction business. On March 24, 2003, Coalbank commenced excavation to install a telephone line at a residence at 211 Hammond St. in Hartford. MidAmerican Energy Company operated a half-inch diameter buried natural gas pipeline to the house, and had located and marked the location of the line several days before the excavation.

During the excavation, Coalbank's equipment hit and severed the gas pipeline, causing release of natural gas. Coalbank did not notify MidAmerican, and he attempted to patch or rejoin the severed natural gas pipeline with tape, tubing, and two hose clamps. The area was then backfilled with soil and Coalbank left the site.

About two months later, MidAmerican conducted a leak survey and determined there was a natural gas leak from the pipeline serving the residence at 211 Hammond St. The company investigated and determined that the natural gas pipeline had previously been severed and crudely patched, which was the cause of the natural gas leak.

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