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Protecting the Environment

For immediate release - Tuesday, March 21, 2006.
Contact Bob Brammer - 515-281-6699.

Dubuque Company Pays $5,000 for Violating "One Call" Law

Ehrlich Concrete Construction, Inc., hit and damaged a water main in town of Asbury.

Dubuque. Attorney General Tom Miller today announced that a Dubuque County District Court judge has assessed a $5000 civil penalty against Ehrlich Concrete Construction, Inc., of Dubuque for failing to call the state One Call center at least 48 hours before starting excavations.

"In this case, the excavator hit a water main and partially shut down the town of Asbury water system," Miller said. "And they narrowly missed a gas line. It shows why the One Call law is critical." The law requires advance notification so underground utilities and pipelines can be marked and avoided.

Miller's Office filed a lawsuit on December 29, 2005, alleging that Ehrlich failed to call One Call prior to commencing an excavation to install a basement in Asbury, a community of about 2500 people just northwest of Dubuque. The excavator hit and damaged an 8-inch water main, causing the main to leak water at approximately 2000 gallons per minute -- and resulting in loss of drinking water to about 500 city customers for four hours while the water main was repaired.

The leak caused depressurization of the city water system and required the affected part of the system to be flushed after the repairs. The excavation also missed hitting a natural gas pipeline by only a few feet, according to the lawsuit.

The consent decree resolving the lawsuit was entered Monday in Dubuque County by District Court Judge Alan L. Pearson. The Court also permanently prohibited any further violations of the One Call law by the company.

This is the first One Call enforcement action filed in Dubuque County. The Attorney General's office has filed 19 One Call enforcement actions in 18 counties.

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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. I always emphasize that One Call is easy, it's fast, and it's free. It just makes sense -- and it's the law."