A central Iowa contractor who dug through a gas line while digging last spring in Warren County will pay a hefty fine for not reporting the potentially disastrous goof.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller says the excavator, Greg Coalbank of Knoxville, apparently did call to locate a nearby gas lines before doing some work on a job. But while he was doing it, he severed the natural-gas pipeline, then tried to fix it up with tape, tubing and clamps.
Miller says “That wasn’t done very well,” and sometime later MidAmerican Energy determined there was a leak, and sent workers out to locate and find out what had happened. Miller explains the “Iowa One-Call” law requires contractors to call 48 hours before digging so utilities can come out and mark where the lines are so they’re not interrupted.
The Attorney General says the excavator apparently did that before the job — but when things went wrong, he should have called again. One of the requirements of the law is that if a line’s cut, the contractor has to tell the utility and get it fixed. That wasn’t done in this case, so the court’s assigned him a $5,000 penalty.
Miller says the penalty’s a severe one, but we don’t see many cases this serious. Miller says it the digger had called the power company, he wouldn’t have been punished for breaking the line. “What we’re trying to do here is ensure safety,” Miller says, “and if he’d made that call and had them repair it adequately, I don’t think there would have been a penalty.” Miller says generally contractors in Iowa show very good compliance, checking on underground lines before any job and reporting breaks if they happen.