DES MOINES— Attorney General Tom Miller has filed four lawsuits in Davis, Marion, Sioux and Taylor counties alleging contractors conducted illegal excavations, some of which damaged underground utility lines, in violation of the “Iowa One Call” law.

All four of the cases were resolved with consent decrees, with civil penalties totaling $24,500. The four defendants admitted to the violations and agreed not to violate the One Call law in the future.

Additionally, the AG’s Office sent warning letters to six utility companies as a result of numerous violations of locating requirements in Iowa’s One Call law.

The One Call law requires anyone who digs, excavates or trenches privately or commercially to first contact the Iowa One Call center to locate underground utilities. The law also requires that the owners and operators of utilities timely and accurately locate and mark underground facilities in response to a locate request for a planned excavation.

The following four cases were resolved with consent decrees:

Davis County — Titan Soil

In May 2020, Titan Soil conducted excavations to repair a pond tile outlet and remove trees at a property in Bloomfield without giving the proper 48-hour notice to operators of underground facilities who may have been affected by the excavation, according to the lawsuit. Additionally, Titan Soil conducted the excavation within 25 feet of a high pressure natural gas pipeline without having a representative of the pipeline operator present.  

Titan Soil agreed to resolve the matter with a consent decree, wherein the company admitted to the violations and agreed to pay a $6,500 civil penalty in addition to injunctive relief prohibiting future violations.

Marion County — Van Den Broek Concrete

On two separate occasions in December 2019 and June 2020, Van Den Broek Concrete failed to provide 48-hour notice and proceeded with excavations to remove and replace sidewalk and driveways in Pella,

according to the lawsuit. Van Den Broek placed a locate request for the excavations, but when the officials with the city of Pella arrived at the sites to locate and mark three electrical lines, which carry 120/240 volts, 240 volts and 15,000 volts, the excavations had already occurred.

Additionally, in April 2020, Van Den Broek Concrete conducted excavations to remove and replace a driveway. According to the lawsuit, during the excavation Van Den Broek’s equipment struck and damaged the wires for a city-owned and -operated traffic signal. The company failed to notify the city of the damage, instead pouring concrete over the damaged wires.

Van Den Broek Concrete agreed to resolve the matter with a consent decree, wherein the company admitted to the violations and agreed to pay a $7,000 civil penalty in addition to injunctive relief prohibiting future violations.

Sioux County ID Excavating and Tiling, LLC   

In November 2019, ID Excavating and Tiling failed to provide 48 hours’ notice of planned excavations to install drainage tile in Boyden, according to the lawsuit. The company proceeded with the excavation without having the underground facilities located and marked. During the excavation, ID Excavating’s equipment hit and damaged a two-inch diameter natural gas pipeline under 655 pounds per square inch of pressure, which is owned and operated by Northern Natural Gas. The damage resulted in the loss of service to 277 MidAmerican Energy Co. customers.  

ID Excavating agreed to resolve the matter with a consent decree, wherein the company admitted to the violations and agreed to pay a $6,000 civil penalty in addition to injunctive relief prohibiting future violations.

Taylor County — JNC Construction

In December 2020, JNC Construction began excavations to install drainage tile prior to having any underground facilities located and marked, therefore failing to provide 48-hour notice to operators of underground facilities in the area, according to the lawsuit. During the excavation, JNC’s equipment hit and damaged a three-inch diameter natural gas pipeline under 872 pounds per square inch of pressure, which is owned and operated by the city of Bedford.

JNC Construction agreed to resolve the matter with a consent decree, wherein the company admitted to the violations and agreed to pay a $5,000 civil penalty in addition to injunctive relief prohibiting future violations.

Warning Letters sent to six utility companies

The Iowa Attorney General’s Office sent warning letters in May 2021 to the following companies, notifying them of numerous complaints alleging they failed to accurately locate and mark underground facilities. The letters reiterated the importance of strictly complying with the One Call law, and reminded the companies that failure to do so will result in enforcement action.

Alliant Energy Group: According to the letter, a review of the complaints found that Alliant violated the One Call law on seven separate occasions in the prior three years.  In most instances, Alliant, through Vannguard Utility Partners, admitted to the violations and in others claims the violations did not occur, but the AG’s Office concluded otherwise.Black Hills Energy: According to the letter, BHE admitted it failed to timely locate and mark underground facilities on one occasion and further admitted that it terminated its contract with United States Infrastructure Co. (USIC), due to repeated concerns about timely locating in certain geographic areas.

CenturyLink: According to the letter, a review of the complaints found that CenturyLink violated the One Call law on 12 separate occasions in the prior three years. In some instances, CenturyLink, through USIC, has admitted to the violations and in others claims the violations did not occur, but the AG’s Office concluded otherwise. CenturyLink, through USIC, also provided remedies it has taken, including training of staff, disciplining employees, and hiring additional staff.

Mediacom: According to the letter, a review of complaints found that Mediacom violated the One Call law on eight separate occasions in the prior three years. In some instances, Mediacom admits to the violations and in others claims the violations did not occur, but the AG’s Office concluded otherwise.

MidAmerican Energy Co.: According to the letter, a review of complaints found that MidAmerican Energy violated the One Call law on 16 separate occasions in the prior three years. In some instances, MidAmerican Energy admits to the violations and in others claims the violations did not occur, but the AG’s Office concluded otherwise.

Windstream Communications: According to the letter, a review of complaints found that Windstream violated the One Call law on four separate occasions in the prior three years. In some instances, Windstream admits to the violations and in others did not provide a response to the alleged violations, but the AG’s Office confirmed the violations.

Iowa One Call Law  

The One Call law requires that anyone excavating, including digging, must contact Iowa One Call at least 48 hours in advance of digging, to minimize the risk of damage to underground facilities, including electric, gas, communications, water and sewer lines.  

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. Violators also may be liable for the repair costs of damaged facilities.  

Excavators, farm operations and homeowners can notify the Iowa One Call Notification Center about planned digging or excavating online at www.iowaonecall.com, or by phone at 811 (or toll-free at 800-292-8989). The center is open 24-hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.   

Iowa One Call sends “locate utility requests” immediately to companies, which are required to mark underground utility locations within 48 hours with flags or paint showing where underground lines are located.  

The One Call law has been in effect since 1993. Iowa One Call is paid for by owners and operators of pipelines and other underground facilities. Services provided by Iowa One Call are free to homeowners, contractors and professional excavators.

The Iowa One Call media contact is Ben Booth, Iowa One Call Public Relations/Communications Manager.  He may be reached at 515-278-8700, 515-707-3998 or by emailing benbooth@netins.net

To report an alleged One Call violation by an owner/operator for inaccurately locating an underground facility or to report an alleged One Call violation of an excavation near an underground utility, go to the Iowa Attorney General’s website.

To report an alleged violation by an owner/operator for a late/non-response to a locate request, please email the Iowa Utilities Board with a subject line of “Late/Non-Response Locate Complaint.” Please also include the list of One Call ticket number(s); name of the company filing the complaint; contact information for the submitting party; and copies of any communications with operators or locators.