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Protecting the Environment

For immediate release - Thursday, December 30, 2004.
Contact Bob Brammer - 515-281-6699.

Attorney General Sues Knoxville Excavator for "One Call" Violations

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

DES MOINES. The Attorney General's Environmental Law Division filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging that Greg Coalbank, a Knoxville excavator, severed a residential natural gas pipeline in Hartford, Iowa, 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.

Attorney General Tom 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. [See below for more details of the Coalbank lawsuit.]

Hartford is just southeast of Des Moines in Warren County, where the lawsuit was filed. The suit seeks civil penalties up to $10,000 per day of each violation and a permanent injunction.

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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 naming Greg Coalbank:

The lawsuit alleges:

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 operates a ½-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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