Michelle Tessier, Deseret News
NORTH SALT LAKE — It's been several days since a landslide destroyed a house in North Salt Lake and threatened a neighborhood, but Steven Peterson's peace of mind is still as precarious as the towering mound of earth settling across the street from his own home.
"We don't feel any safer," Peterson said. "I'm sure we actually feel less safe because no one actually knows if that mountain could give way. It's unpredictable."
While updates from the city are "very general," Peterson said he was comforted to see progress being made. There was also some good news for those affected by the slide who may be able to recover their losses.
"The city seems to be paying close attention to this," he said.
Crews began working Thursday to build a road onto the site of Tuesday's landslide to facilitate large drilling equipment needed to test the stability of the hillside, according to city officials.
Data collected during the testing period will be used to model the characteristics of the landslide, which will be considered in developing a construction plan, according to city manager Barry Edwards.
"It seems very complicated, but it won't take them very long," Edwards said.
Officials with the U.S. Geological Survey calculated that the slide contained about 300,000 cubic yards of material and covered an area of 250,000 square feet — about twice the size of the EnergySolutions Arena.
Kern River Gas will also drill to inspect the condition of a pipe that runs near the slide, Edwards said.
City officials and developers were waiting for the area to dry out before taking action on the aftermath of the slide. Although the slope continues to move gradually while it dries and settles, it's safe to take preliminary steps, Edwards said.
"We think the risk is minimal enough that it makes sense to begin gathering data as soon as possible," he said.
Edwards said the drilling is expected to begin no later than Monday.
City insurance representatives said Thursday that while landslide coverage is rare, there may be options for those affected by the slide.
"We believe that there is insurance out there that can cover it," Edwards said. "And it's our goal as a city to make sure that everybody is made whole from the losses that they have."
That includes the Utrilla family, whose home was crushed in the slide. A benefit golf tournament is planned for the family Sept. 26 at the Eaglewood Golf Course.
The cause of the slide and the party responsible remains unclear. But city officials have reviewed geotechnical studies done prior to the landslide and found that some construction projects, such as retention walls built at the base of the hill and development on top, may have been done without proper permits.
"We don't know if those had any material effect on what happened, but we're going to continue to examine that," Edwards said. "I believe the consensus would be that those (retention walls) would be a minor contributing factor, that a larger contributing factor would be some of the construction that may have gone on top of the hill."
Questar Gas restored gas lines Thursday for all the houses in the area except the four that remained evacuated. The city plans to waive this month's utility fees for all 27 of the homes that were evacuated Tuesday.
Peterson said he and his neighbors are working together to help each other and to stay informed on the progress that is made.
"We're going to continue to act as a group and try to do everything we can to get the best information so we can make decisions about our property," he said.
Contributing: Anne Forester, Andrew Adams
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: MorganEJacobsen
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