Attorney General Powers Iowa

Iowa attorney general Tom Miller is shown May 15. 

MUSCATINE — A contractor operating out of Muscatine settled a lawsuit with the state for illegal excavation, which led to damage of utility lines in the county.

Todd Hackett Construction Co., 2925 Cedar St., Suite 1, was fined a civil penalty of $500 for digging before proper notice was given to check for underground utilities, which resulted in damage to a utility line. Attorney General Tom Miller recently filed five lawsuits, including in Muscatine County, against contractors for allegedly violating the "Iowa One Call." The law requires notification to the Iowa One Call center at least 48 hours prior to digging, excavating or trenching either privately or commercially to locate underground utilities. The other lawsuits were filed in Dickinson, Woodbury, Story and Benton counties.

According to court documents, Todd Hackett made a request in October 2017 for planned excavation to install a light pole near 3001 Grandview Ave. and 33rd Street South in Muscatine. The request stated the area of excavation was "the east side of the fuel station that is south of the maintenance garage."

In November, Hackett used an auger to excavate and install protective bollards for an electrical transformer in the area near the site of the light pole north of the maintenance building. The area north of the building had not been located and wasn't marked before excavation. During the dig, Hackett hit and damaged a 13,800-volt underground electrical line owned and operated by Muscatine Power and Water. The damage resulted in a loss of service to a nearby customer and remediation costs to MP&W.

Documents also stated Hackett failed to notify the utility about the damage. MP&W only learned of the incident when the utility responded to a locate request filed by Hackett the following day to "expose damaged piping and install bollards."

The case was settled Monday through a consent decree.

A spokesman for Iowa One Call said homeowners are more likely to be unaware that they must call before digging on residential properties, but for contractors who break the law, it’s “complacency or they didn’t plan accordingly. They should know better because that’s what they do for a living.”

The spokesman said first and foremost, getting the utilities marked is about the safety of workers and the public. But it’s also about ensuring the infrastructure residents rely on is working effectively.

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