Excavators Fined for Natural Gas Explosions in April

A pickup truck smolders and flame rise after a tiling company hit a natural gas line which exploded at a farm field in Jackson County in eastern Iowa, Friday April 27, 2012 about 12 miles north of Maquoketa near the intersection of Bellevue Cascade Road and 216th Avenue. The Jackson County Sheriff's office said there were no reports of injuries at the scene but a truck and two pieces of heavy farm equipment were destroyed by the flames. (AP Photo/The Quad City Times, Kevin E. Schmidt)

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By Belinda Yeung

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Two excavators agreed to pay maximum civil fines for two explosions on natural gas pipelines in Iowa in April, one in Plymouth County and the other in Jackson County.

The Iowa Attorney General's office says in both cases excavators violated Iowa's One Call law, requiring 48-hour notice before any dig in order to locate and avoid any underground utilities. In each case, excavators digging to install drainage tile ruptured natural gas pipelines, causing large explosions and fires, injuring two people.

The Jackson County explosion occurred on April 27th in a farm field near Zwingle. The Iowa Attorney General's Office says Donald Kunde with Kunde Dozing and Tile, hit a 16-inch MidAmerican natural gas pipeline. The ensuing explosion created a large crater, scorching farmland and damaging the pipeline and tiling equipment. Both Kunde and two employees managed to escape without injury.

As part of a consent decree filed Friday, Kunde agreed to pay a maximum fine of $10,000.

On April 25th, Patrick and Cynthia DeRocher of DeRocher Construction hit a 24-inch natural gas line in Plymouth County. The damage caused an explosion and fire, injuring two employees and leaving a crater approximately 100-feet long and 30-feet deep. The Attorney General's Office says the same company performed another dig near those same pipelines just days later, again without giving 48-hour notice.

DeRocher Construction agreed to a consent decree filed Friday with a fine of $20,000.

“These cases should send a strong message that it’s not worth the risk not to notify Iowa One Call before digging,” Miller said. “We will pursue those who choose to disregard this law, which protects public safety and our underground public utility lines.”

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