Displaced family builds faith as work on landslide area set for October

Published: Thursday, Sept. 4 2014 9:30 p.m. MDT

Elena Utrilla walks past her home in North Salt Lake on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. The Utrillas' home was destroyed in a landslide that occurred on Aug. 5, 2014.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

NORTH SALT LAKE — City officials announced Thursday that remediation work is expected to begin on the North Salt Lake landslide by Oct. 15 and will start at the top of the scarp where investigators believe lies the greatest risk.

Construction at the top of the scarp is expected to be largely complete by the end of the year, and work on the rest of the slide will continue through the winter, though funding for the project has not yet been identified, according to Mayor Len Arave.

Before a construction plan is developed, geotechnicians plan to do additional drilling at the site to better measure ever-changing groundwater levels on and around the slide and how they would impact remediation.

The landslide hit Aug. 5, sending tons of rock and dirt sliding into a home on Parkway Drive, damaging a pool and tennis club, and forcing 27 residents from their homes. The slide crushed the home of the Utrilla family, permanently displacing them. All but one other family have now returned to their homes but the neighborhood residents remain uneasy about the possibility of additional slides.

Several residents at a community meeting Thursday requested that data collected be shared publicly as it becomes available in the hope that it will clarify what the broad impacts of the slide could be, such as a change in the way groundwater flows through the neighborhood.

"We have concerns about what's going on under Parkway Drive — what the water movement is, what might happen to us in three years if our foundation starts cracking," said Steve Peterson, who lives across the street from the slide. "This could take a long time to determine the impacts."

Residents also called for more open communication between city officials and community members.

"I would like to feel that the city isn't treating me already as a potential litigate," resident Ty Weston said. "I think sometimes when we hear the verbiage from the city, it almost feels to me that the city's already treating me as if I have sued the city or done something against them. ... I want the city to be my representative, my ally in resolving this."

Sharing information

Kearn River Gas Transmission Company is continuing to monitor two gas pipelines that run through the area of the slide, which supply 90 percent of the natural gas for Las Vegas, and 30 percent of the gas for Southern California, Arave said. The utility company has hired it's own geotechnical firm to study the slide, as have the city and Eaglepointe Development.

Each firm will share the information they gather to ensure accuracy and a broad perspective on which to base remediation plans, the mayor said.

Arave said the city plans to address several concerns raised in a petition from residents of Eaglepointe, including determining what events and contributing factors led to the slide, as well as necessary adjustments to city ordinances, policies and procedures.

"We have to take it one step at a time," he said.

The cause of the slide remains unknown, but it appears that heavy precipitation contributed to the slide's accelerated movement, according to Tim Thompson, a senior geologist with GeoStrata, a firm hired by the city to monitor the slide.

"Nobody anticipated an inch of rain in a half an hour," Thompson said. "That was an awful lot of rain. The rain lubricates the sheer plane to make it weaker, it adds weight to the slide to make it heavier, it does all the things you don't want to see happen."

Utrilla home

What's left of the Utrilla's home at the base of the slide is expected to be removed starting Wednesday.

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