$25,000 fine for contractor involved in July 10 Sun Prairie gas explosion

The Public Service Commission found probable cause that VC Tech Inc. violated Wisconsin's "One Call" law when its workers failed to request utility locating and marking before beginning excavation work in Sun Prairie on the day of the explosion. 

State regulators have imposed the maximum $25,000 fine on a contractor involved in the July 10, 2018 Sun Prairie gas explosion that killed firefighter Capt. Cory Barr.

The Public Service Commission found probable cause that VC Tech Inc. violated Wisconsin’s “One Call” law when its workers failed to request utility locating and marking before beginning excavation work in Sun Prairie on the day of the explosion.

The PSC Commission unanimously OK’d the fine on Aug. 8.

A VC Tech worker, according to investigators, bored through a gas line on July 10 while working on a Verizon Wireless fiber optic project near the intersection of Main Street and Bristol Street. The worker called 911 and fire and police started evacuated the area around 6:21 p.m. The explosion occurred around 7:05 p.m., according to Sun Prairie police reports.

PSC Commission Chairperson Rebecca Cameron Valcq said utility locating and marking requirements before digging are in place to prevent exactly what happened in Sun Prairie a year ago.

VC Tech is also required to pay $2,500 to the “One Call” system and have employees involved in the incident attend an educational course.

“Let this be a warning to all parties involved in the practice of excavation that we view the “One Call” law as a vital matter of public safety,” Valcq said on Thursday.

Last December, the “One Call” enforcement panel found that there was probable cause that VC Tech Inc. violated state laws that require excavators get their utility location tickets before doing work.

The panel recommended the case to the Public Service Commission for enforcement. The panel was responding to a complaint made to the PSC by USIC Locating Service Inc. against VC Tech.

USIC, stated in the complaint, that the company’s operations were disrupted by VC Tech’s violation by taking its employees away from work to respond to the natural gas explosion and take part in the investigation.

Lawyers representing VC Tech Inc. responded to the complaint by claiming that a USIC employee failed to identify and misidentified gas lines at the worksite. VC Tech asked that the complaint be dismissed.

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