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MDU fined for mis-marking underground facilities

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Dave Thompson, Prairie Public
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Public Service Commissioners Randy Christmann (l), Julie Fedorchak and Brian Kroshus

MDU has been fined $7500, with $2500 suspended, for a violation of the “Call Before You Dig” law.

In this case, it had to do with the marking of underground facilities the utility has in the Minot area.

Central Trenching was installing some underground wiring at an intersection. It had filed an excavation notice with the one-call notification center. MDU said it had marked the area where it had an underground gas line. But MDU’s two inch natural gas line was damaged, nearly 9 feet from the marked location.

Central Trenching said MDU failed to mark its underground facilities within 24 inches, required by law.

Public Service Commissioner Brian Kroshus said MDU admitted the marking was improper.

"MDU believes that during the locate process, there was 'line bleed," Kroshus said. "There was a cable in that same proximity."

Kroshus said you can actually have bleed on the locator signal.

"It was marked where the underground cable was," Kroshus said. "AS a locator, you're standing above ground, and you can't see what's below. You're marking based on signal."

Kroshus said in the consent agreement, worked out between PSC staff and MDU, the fine was set at $7500, with $2500 suspended on MDU’s promise that this won’t happen again.

The PSC vote was 2 to 1. Commission Chairman Julie Fedorchak dissented.

"Nine feet is an incredible variance," Fedorchak said. "I understand the explanation. But we have to be able to trust the system better than that."

Fedorchak said she thought the penalty was "too light."

Commissioner Randy Christmann voted in favor of the settlement.