A Queens paving company was hit with a record penalty of $85,000 for failing to notify a call center of excavation plans, state officials said Thursday.
New York Paving Inc. of Long Island City “has a history of violating (New York’s) Dig Safely rules,” and was fined under tougher penalties approved in 2013 by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the state Public Service Commission said in a news release. The rules require companies to contact a state call center before starting excavations.
An attorney for New York Paving, Peter Sullivan of Manhattan, said the company denied any wrongdoing.
“We’ve complied with the law throughout, and the decision will be overturned,” upon appeal in state Supreme Court, Sullivan said in a phone interview Thursday. “We worked closely with the commission so we’re very disappointed.”
The release said between May 2014 and May 2016, the company was cited by the commission 10 times in the counties of Nassau, Queens and Richmond “for failing to provide notice of intent to excavate to the one-call notification system.”
During this period, officials said, New York Paving damaged gas pipes ranging from a half-inch natural gas service line up to a 6-inch natural gas main. The release said damage to large mainlines were of particular concern.
“In each instance, those failures resulted in damage to underground pipes in National Grid’s New York City and Long Island service territories, thankfully with no injuries or loss of life,” the release said. “Given the number of violations, department staff moved swiftly to prevent further violations from occurring.”
Commission Chair Audrey Zibelman said in the release: “Ensuring public safety is a fundamental responsibility of companies working near underground utility pipes and wires, and making sure these companies meet those obligations is one of our core missions.”
At the request of commission staff, National Grid has worked with New York Paving to make safety improvements — specifically with company staff who are responsible for providing the notices, officials said. “As a result, the company has made more than 20,000 calls to Dig Safely since October 2016,” the release said.
According to the release, New York Paving was contracted to perform paving restoration work, and claimed the general contractor for these projects gave notice of intent. Under the rules, however, the company actually performing the excavation work is responsible for providing notice of intent to excavate to the one-call notification system.
New York Paving did the excavation work for the utility and was required to provide notice of intent to excavate to the notification system.
Sullivan declined to comment on that claim.
Before Cuomo signed the changes into law in 2013, the commission would have been limited to fining the company $10,000. The stiffer sanctions allowed the commission to seek more than eight times that amount.
Since 2013, 1,094 citations and fines totaling $3.25 million have been issued against excavators for failure to notify the one-call system before digging, the release said. The penalty money is used to fund training in safe-excavation practices.
Excavators who do not follow the rules and damage underground facilities are subject to civil penalties and liable for repair costs, the release added.