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Protecting the Environment

For immediate release -- Wednesday, April 23, 2003.
Contact Bob Brammer - 515-281-6699.

Marshall County Trenching Co. Sued for "One Call" Violations

Marshalltown. The Attorney General's Environmental Law Division filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Marshall County District Court alleging that a State Center trenching company failed to make a required "One Call" notification prior to an excavation that severed a fiber optic communications line operated by Qwest.

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.

The defendant in the matter is Casey Crawford, who does business as Casey Crawford Trenching of State Center. The suit seeks a civil penalty and a permanent injunction barring further One Call violations.

The suit alleges 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 that occurred Dec. 12. Crawford was using a trenching machine to install a water line about two miles west of State Center.

According to the suit, the buried, four-strand fiber optic line carries 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 to be at least $5,600.

"This is our first One Call enforcement action that involves a communication line or a utility other than a pipeline," Miller said. "The One Call law is there to protect both excavators and the public -- and to avoid disruption to phone lines and other key arteries we all depend on." Miller's office has taken numerous prior actions on pipeline-related One Call violations.

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.

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