Turkey truck crash will keep aqueduct shut off for days

Published: Thursday, April 24 2014 5:56 p.m. MDT

A crane lifts turkey crates out of the water at the scene of an accident where a semitrailer truck hauling around 720 live turkeys crashed into Deer Creek Reservoir on Thursday, April 24, 2014.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

DEER CREEK RESERVOIR — Water supply managers shut down a key culinary water supply aqueduct from Deer Creek Reservoir Thursday after a truck full of live turkeys crashed into the water, resulting in a leak of about 100 gallons of diesel fuel.

The intake at the Salt Lake Aqueduct will remain shut off pending the results of water quality tests that ensure no contamination, said Mike DeVries, assistant general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake and Sandy.

For now, residents of Sandy and Salt Lake City will receive Little Cottonwood Creek water treated at another plant and users of the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District will also rely on other sources such as groundwater, DeVries said.

"We actually have those alternative water supplies we can utilize in the interim. We are in good shape and we can sustain use. For now, we are good. Hopefully this is cleared up quickly."

Richard Bay, general manager of the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District, said the district's treatment plant has been shut down until expedited results from water sampling are in and monitoring is being done at the Provo River at Olmstead diversion point.

"If we have to shut down our diversion from the Provo River will be fine for several days."

As of late Thursday afternoon it appeared that the fuel spill was entirely contained, according to Wasatch County Health Department public information officer Chris Smoot.

The truck hauling 720 turkeys ran into trouble on U.S. 189 around the reservoir at 6:20 a.m. Thursday while rounding a left-hand curve about a half mile from Deer Creek Dam.

The trailer "for some unknown reason struck the guard rail in that area" and pulled it out of the ground, said Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Todd Royce. The trailer then rolled over the guard rail, pulling the truck with it.

Broken crates and dead turkeys were floating in the reservoir. About two dozen turkeys survived the crash.

The trailer and truck took out about 100 feet of guard rail and trees, rolled down the embankment and into the reservoir. The driver was ejected from the vehicle, but did not sustain life-threatening injuries.

The driver, Justin Neff, 32, of Elsinore in Sevier County, said he does not remember how he got out of the cab, but he told Utah Highway Patrol officials that he thinks he was thrown from the vehicle. He was taken to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center and treated. Neff had been driving to Norbest Inc. in Gunnison, Sanpete County.

A spokesman for the company that provided the turkeys, Moroni Feed Company, gathered up the turkey carcases and retrieved the live turkeys following the crash.

"Right now our director of Animal Welfare Services is on sight to ensure the safe removal of any dead, live or injured turkeys and to make sure we do that with best animal welfare practices,” Moroni Feed Company’s Kris McBride said.

The right lane of southbound U.S. 189 was closed intermittently throughout the day while crews worked to pull the truck out with cranes and replace the guard rail, Royce said.

Hazmat crews responded to help with any fuel leaks from the crash, and investigators were working to determine its cause.

Multiple booms were deployed at the reservoir near the dam where the truck plunged into the water, said Eugene Swalberg, spokesman with the state Division of Parks and Recreation.

Several agencies worked to contain the spill, which was a concern because of Deer Creek's role as a supplier for culinary water.

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