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For immediate release -- Thursday, December 29, 2005.
Contact Bob Brammer -- 515-281-6699.

A.G. Files Three "One Call" Lawsuits

Law requires excavators to notify state One Call Center before digging.

DES MOINES. Attorney General Tom Miller filed lawsuits in Dubuque, Madison and Poweshiek Counties today [Dec. 29] alleging excavators violated Iowa's "One Call" Law by failing to call the state One Call center at least 48 hours before starting excavations.

"The law requires notification so underground pipelines and other utilities can be marked and avoided," Miller said. "These lawsuits demonstrate why the law is so important."

"One suit alleges the excavator hit a water main and caused a temporary loss of drinking water to about 500 customers," he said. "Another alleges a drainage-tile excavation damaged a pipeline carrying gasoline, which resulted in a fish kill and a costly cleanup. The third alleges an excavator narrowly missed a highly-explosive hazardous liquids pipeline."

"The One Call law is crucial," Miller said. "It protects people, protects property, protects the environment, and prevents disruption of crucial underground lines of all kinds. I always emphasize that One Call is easy, it's fast, it's free, and it's the law."

Each lawsuit seeks civil penalties and injunctive relief.

Dubuque County: The petition alleges that Ehrlich Concrete Construction, Inc., of Dubuque failed to call One Call prior to commencing an excavation to install a basement in Asbury, Iowa. On February 25, 2004, the excavator hit and damaged an 8-inch city water main causing the main to leak water at a rate of approximately 2000 gallons per minute and loss of drinking water to about 500 city customers for four hours while the water main was repaired. The leak also caused depressurization of the city water system, requiring the entire system to be flushed after the repairs. The excavation allegedly also missed hitting a natural gas pipeline by only a few feet. [Ehrlich petition.]

Madison County: The petition alleges that Archer Construction Incorporated of Cumming failed to call One Call prior to commencing an excavation in rural Madison County. On July 14, 2005, a pipeline patrol plane observed the excavation, which was subsequently investigated. Several holes had been drilled as part of a septic tank percolation test -- including one drilled approximately four feet from a hazardous liquids pipeline carrying isobutane, a highly explosive and flammable liquid, under 480 pounds per square inch of pressure. [Archer Construction petition.]

Poweshiek County: The petition alleges that Jim Heishman of Grinnell failed to call One Call prior to commencing an excavation to install drainage tile in rural Poweshiek County. On March 17, 2005, the excavator's tiling equipment hit and damaged an 8-inch hazardous liquids pipeline carrying gasoline at 819 pounds per square inch of pressure. Gasoline was released and discharged into two tile drains and a nearby stream, resulting in a fish kill and property and cleanup costs exceeding $200,000. [Heishman petition.]

Heishman has agreed to a Consent Decree which has been presented to the Court for approval, providing for payment of a $3500 civil penalty and a permanent injunction barring any future violations. Cleanup has been completed, and Heishman has paid restitution for the fish kill.

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. The One Call web site is found at: www.iowaonecall.com/index2.php .

Utility operators locate and mark underground facilities such as gas, hazardous liquids, 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. "It protects the environment and avoids costly disruptions. It just makes sense. And it's the law."

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