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Utah audits criticize water district response to Ogden flood

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OGDEN, Utah (AP) — Water district officials were negligent in responding when a reservoir leak flooded an Ogden neighborhood, according to the Utah State Auditor's Office.

A 10-page state audit released Tuesday says the Weber-Box Elder Conservation District did too little too late during the summer's weeks-long flood, reported the Standard Examiner reports ( ).

The audit does, however, say that Ogden City Water officials responded to the incident in a timely and appropriate manner.

The auditor's office considered Ogden City Water as the area's culinary water provider and the conservation district as its source for irrigation or secondary water.

The Weber-Box Elder district oversees the reservoir that caused the flooding, damaging the basements of more than a dozen homes. The state audit concluded that the district did not seem to understand the significance of the flooding and responded in a haphazard, unsystematic way.

The board voted to cancel its July meeting despite learning about the flooding on June 28, the report said.

A professional engineer with the firm Hansen, Allen & Luce Engineers concluded that the district should have immediately checked the reservoir, but the audit said district officials maintained the reservoir was sound until draining it Aug. 9 and discovering the leak.

By that point, homeowners had been dealing with water in their basements for six weeks.

State auditors said the district should have initially identified the source of the flooding through various testing methods. Ogden City conducted chemical composition tests on the first day the flooding was reported, according to the report.

Terel Grimley of Pineview Water Systems, which oversees the water district, defended the district's actions in a four-page response.

"There was no failure to effectively evaluate and identify the source of the ground water," wrote Grimley.

Grimley also submitted new information about district procedure, noting that canal operators checked the reservoir four times daily to monitor conditions and water levels.

"The impacts on an entire distribution system delivering water to 2,491 connections have to be carefully considered and evaluated before shutting off water to find leaks," Grimley said.

The district did agree with one audit recommendation to devise an emergency plan and train employees yearly on responding to such a crisis.

An auditor questioned the reliability of Grimley's information, saying it was inconsistent and provided too late.

State Rep. Justin Fawson, a North Ogden Republican, said he plans to introduce legislation that would help tighten accountability for the water districts.

"It's a pretty scathing report," he said. "My first impression was that they were reliably inconsistent, defensive and patently unaware of current practices. It seemed to me there were obvious gaps in training and their own professional development."


Information from: Standard-Examiner,

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