Water flowing again in area where canal break destroyed home

By John Hollenhorst  |  Posted Aug 9th, 2009 @ 10:05pm


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LOGAN -- A month after a broken canal created a deadly mudslide in Logan, water is on the move again in a Logan hillside. Experts aren't sure if it creates a new threat to homes down below, but residents are worried and keeping a watchful eye.

As Logan's public works director Mark Nielsen said, "Well, water never helps. To say it can threaten stability, I can't say yes or no."

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A month ago, a wall of mud and water buried a mother and her two children. It's still not clear if the canal was undermined by its own leaking water or by water from another source. In recent days, the hillside started bleeding water again.

A torn-up vacant lot is what's left at the center of the tragedy. The house where three people died is gone. Others nearby are abandoned. In the last week, neighbors across the street have noticed more and more water oozing out of the bluff and into the street.

Neighbor Chris Thomas said, "Well, I guess I'm worried to know whether the hillside is unstable still or what's going on with it."

"We've seen a change in that area right where the slide occurred. We've seen more water coming," Nielsen said.

On Thursday the city posted notices warning of "increased flow from the artesian springs." The notice said it "may indicate an increased potential for earth movement or flooding."

Nielsen told KSL, "Can it happen again? I don't have any magical crystal ball that says it can't."

But Nielsen says there's no evidence it will either. It may be just a typical increase in artesian spring flows this time of year.

"The canal is not in use still. And so it's not from the canal," Nielsen said.

But some residents say they've already noticed indications of new earth movement in the last week. Rachael Wentz did not want to appear on camera but did show us the retaining wall behind the house her parents and siblings were forced to abandon.

"The cracks are noticeably bigger. We've noticed the hillside moving, up on the hill. The cracks in the canal are bigger. We've actually got movement in our yard. If the hillside breaks above the canal, we'd be gone in a second if we lived here," she said.

UDOT is bringing in geotechnical consultants to see if they can figure out what's going on and what kind of fix may be necessary.

Meanwhile, Nelsen says he doesn't expect the canal that broke last time around to ever be rebuilt on the same hillside.

E-mail: hollenhorst@ksl.com

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