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For release Thursday, April 17, 2003.
Contact Bob Brammer - 515-281-6699.

Fayette County Excavator to Pay Penalty for "One Call" Violations

West Union. A Fayette County excavator and drainage tile contractor who hit a Northern Natural Gas Co. pipeline has been ordered to pay a civil penalty of $7,500 for violating Iowa's "One Call" law.

One pipeline company employee was killed when the pipeline ruptured several hours later during investigation of the incident. Another was seriously injured and lost an eye.

Attorney General Tom Miller said Iowa law requires at least 48-hour advance notification to the state "One Call" center prior to any excavation so that underground gas, electric and other utility lines can be avoided.

Miller's office alleged the defendants in the case, Lyle Recker and Recker Construction Inc. of Arlington, Iowa, violated the "One Call" law in connection with two different excavations. On Wednesday afternoon in West Union, Fayette County District Court Judge John Bauercamper ordered the defendants to pay the $7,500 penalty and prohibited any future violations.

"The One Call law protects the public and excavators alike from injury or damages, and it protects the environment," Miller said. "It's easy, it's fast, it's free, it's the law -- and it's important," he said. "When excavators fail to make that call on time and accurately, it can result in injury or death, property damage, environmental harm, or loss of essential services for the public."

Miller said: "It's excavation time again. This case illustrates the danger of digging around pipelines and the importance of strict compliance with One Call requirements."

Miller's Office has brought One Call enforcement actions in eight counties, resulting in civil penalties, permanent injunctions, and, in one case, contempt of court.

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 handle 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 excavators must avoid underground lines.

Utility operators locate and mark underground facilities including 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.

Details on the Recker Enforcement Action:

The Attorney General's enforcement lawsuit alleged violations in two separate excavations:

Recker called the One Call Notification Center on Nov. 3, 1999, regarding a ditch excavation planned for the next day in Scott Township east of Oelwein in Fayette County. Even though the Center advised Recker - and Recker acknowledged - that the start time did not provide the required 48-hour notice, Recker proceeded and dug within 30 feet of the Alliance 36-inch diameter natural gas pipeline before Alliance could mark the pipeline location. The lawsuit alleged failure to provide 48-hour notice of excavation.

On Nov. 7, 1999, Recker notified the One Call Center of plans to install drainage tile also in Scott Township east of Oelwein. However, according to the lawsuit, Recker gave an incorrect address for the site by over half a mile, told a Northern Natural Gas official that he would not be excavating near the company's pipeline so it did not need to be marked, and changed excavation plans without making a new One Call notification. During the excavation on Nov. 11, 1999, the tiling machine operated by Lyle Recker hit the 10-inch diameter Northern Natural Gas "Decorah Branch" pipeline. Pipeline personnel went to the site. During their investigation, the pipeline ruptured, killing one employee and leaving another seriously injured with loss of one eye. Natural gas service was lost to 260 Northern Natural Gas customers during repairs. The lawsuit alleged failure to provide One Call notice of excavation.

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