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For immediate release -- Tuesday, March 30, 2004.
Contact Bob Brammer - 515-281-6699.

"One Call" Penalties Ordered in Butler and Marshall Counties

Excavators dug without required notice and marking of underground lines.

District Court judges in Butler County and Marshall County have assessed civil penalties against two excavators for violating Iowa's "One Call" law, which requires 48-hour advance notice prior to commencing an excavation so that underground facilities can be located, marked - and avoided. The courts also entered permanent injunctions barring future violations.

In Butler County, Nagel Construction LLC was ordered to pay $3500. During excavation to install a water line, a Nagel trenching machine hit and damaged a 4-inch natural gas pipeline about seven miles southwest of Allison operated by Northern Natural Gas. "The pipeline was dented, but fortunately it didn't break or explode," said Attorney General Tom Miller.

In Marshall County, Casey Crawford was ordered to pay a $500 penalty. Crawford's trenching machine hit and severed a fiber optics line near State Center owned by Qwest, disrupting phone service to customers in several central Iowa counties.In both cases, the excavators failed to provide the required 48-hour notice prior to excavating.

"The One Call law protects the public and excavators alike from injury or death," Miller said. "It protects the environment and helps prevent disruptions. We always emphasize that One Call is easy, it's fast, it's free, and it's the law," he said. The Attorney General's Office has undertaken fourteen enforcement actions in thirteen Iowa counties.

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Background on the One Call law, and details of the Butler and Marshall Co. cases.

BACKGROUND -- 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 pipelines and other lines providing electricity, communications, cable TV, water, and sewer service.

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 (as in the Butler Co. case), and up to $1,000 per day involving other underground facilities (as in Marshall Co.)

Details -- BUTLER COUNTY Case:

District Court Judge James M. Drew entered an order today in Butler Co. District Court imposing a $3500 civil penalty and permanent injunction against Nagel Construction, LLC. The State lawsuit alleged Nagel made the One Call notification April 29, 2003, but then began excavating the next day -- before underground lines were marked -- to install a rural water main for the Central Iowa Rural Water District. The trenching machine struck the 4-inch-diameter Northern Natural Gas pipeline known as the Bristow Branch, which delivers natural gas from Northern's main regional pipeline to Allison, Aplington, Bristow, Dumont, Kesley, Parkersburg and Holland. The pipeline was dented but did not break or explode. Northern was able to install a bypass later and there was no disruption of service. The lawsuit noted the alleged cost of repairs exceeded $37,000. (Compensation for repairs or damages is a matter between the private parties involved.)

Details -- MARSHALL COUNTY Case:

Earlier this month, Marshall County District Court Judge Michael J. Moon entered an order imposing a $500 civil penalty and a permanent injunction against Casey Crawford, doing business as Casey Crawford Trenching, for failure to provide 48 hours' notice prior to commencing an excavation in December 2002 to install a water line about two miles west of State Center. Although no natural gas pipeline was in the vicinity, Crawford's trenching machine hit and severed a fiber optics line owned by Qwest. The State lawsuit alleged that emergency 911 service was interrupted in certain areas and had to be rerouted, and that 94,929 phone calls were blocked by the line break. According to the suit, the buried, four-strand fiber optic line carried voice, analog, and digital communications for 16,239 phone lines, 1,002 trunk lines, and emergency 911 service in several central Iowa counties. The line was down for three hours and forty-five minutes before it was repaired by Qwest at a cost estimated at over $5,600.