Two judges have slapped fines on construction companies for violating Iowa’s “One-Call” law that requires anyone doing digging work to phone ahead for the location of buried utility lines. Attorney General’s spokesman Bob Brammer says in one in Butler County he says a trenching machine hit a four-inch natural-gas pipeline though fortunately it didn’t break it or cause an explosion, and in another, a trencher severed a fiber-optic phone line that included 9-1-1 service and knocked out thousands of calls. Brammer says before any commercial underground digging, law requires a call to the One-Call Center so the underground path off all utilities can be marked right away. They have to call 48 hours before digging so a gas, electric or even sewer crews can go out and mark with the familiar paint or little flags we’ve all seen that show where utility lines are. Brammer says the 35-hundred dollar penalty in the gas line case and a 500-dollar fine for cutting the phone line in Marshall County don’t rule out the utilities sending a bill of their own to the construction companies. He says there’s almost always a private action, in which the pipeline, electric company or other plaintiff will go after the one who violated the One-Call law for the price of repairs. Since power or other vital services are often cut off, emergency repairs are even more costly in such cases. Brammer says where the gas line was dented, repair costs were over 37-hundred dollars, and in the Marshall County phone-line disruption, it probably cost five or six-thousand dollars to fix the phone lines within hours, since it so disrupted service to a number of counties. The One Call law itself allows for a civil penalty up to ten-thousand dollars a day for natural-gas or hazardous-liquid pipelines.
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