Geologists Study Huge Cracks in Ground Near Beryl

Geologists Study Huge Cracks in Ground Near Beryl

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BERYL, Utah (AP) -- Geologists are examining three large cracks in the earth that may have developed from pumping groundwater.

Bill Lund of the Utah Geological Survey analyzed the sites and mapped the features -- which very in width from the size of a pencil to 15 feet. The largest crack is about 1,000 feet long.

Preliminarily reports are that the cracks were made from heavy water pumping and ground compaction, Lund said.

"What we think they are is something common in Arizona and in the Las Vegas basin where ground cracks developed from the mechanism occurring in agricultural areas and urban areas where there is a lot of ground water pumping," Lund said.

Pumping lowers the water table by draining water out of the open spaces between the sand and gravel in the earth. This causes the sand and silt materials to compact, he said.

Lund said he has no idea when the cracks first formed, but said they probably became more apparent after the flood waters swept from Shoal Creek near Enterprise and flowed through the valley, causing major erosion.

Though the cracks aren't deemed life threatening, they are potentially hazardous to property. One crack came within 50 yards of a home.

"If it would've gone through the house it could've been a real problem," Lund said.

One portion the largest crack eroded away nearly 150 feet of U.S. Highway 56. The highway was closed down for repairs last week.

According to Sterling Harker, of Beryl, the real problem isn't the earth cracks but the numerous dikes built by early settlers.

"Drainage of the Enterprise watershed and the canyons around Enterprise went right into my field because the early settlers diverted the water into a channel that dumped on top of us instead of going east and spreading out across the valley," Harker said.

He spent a couple of days pumping water out of his dairy farm to save his cows. Without knowing how the cracks will affect his property, he said he is left to wait until the next flood.

"Not much we can do about it. I guess we'll see when it floods again," Harker said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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