Lettuce, spaghetti and raw human waste have been floating down Big Cottonwood Creek because no one did a final inspection of sewer lines in a redeveloped part of the Cottonwood Mall.
The developer didn't request the inspection. So neither the Suburban Sanitation District nor Salt Lake County did one.The result: A serious plumbing error, resulting in stinky sewage being dumped into the creek, wasn't identified and corrected.
Until this week, that is.
Ted Diamant, solid and hazardous-waste specialist for Salt Lake City/County Health Department, said the problem was discovered last Friday when the health department was called by residents "downstream" complaining of the creek's foul odor.
Food waste floating on the creek helped an inspector trace the problem to a restaurant. A fluorescent dye, flushed in toilets of various businesses in the mall's north end, showed up in the storm drain when toilets were flushed at the American Grill, an optical shop and a vacant business.
Inspectors discovered that during the remodeling, the plumber mistakenly connected the sewer line to a storm sewer rather than to the sanitary sewer, Diamant said.
The error wasn't caught, apparently because John Price Associates - the company that owns the mall - didn't request an inspection, sanitation district officials said. So, for years businesses in that section have been dumping raw sewage into the creek.
County Public Works Director Lonnie Johnson said county records show the American Grill received a building permit on Feb. 19 but never asked for plumbing or electrical inspections. He said such inspections are the county's responsibility.
But sanitation district pre-treatment coordinator Roger Nash said the district is responsible for inspecting hookups involving main sewer lines. He said the developer apparently never asked for an inspection after remodeling several years ago.
G. Rex Frazier, an officer of John Price Associates, did not return phone calls from the Deseret News Tuesday.
The problem was corrected Tuesday afternoon when new sewer lines were installed to the three businesses. The old lines were capped.
Throughout the day, a dump truck also pumped sewage from the storm drain vault, which prevented sewage from further entering the creek.
"We had an option of closing that wing of the mall or getting the plug from the fire department to restrict the flow of sewage into the creek," Diamant said. "We chose to take that route and pump the sewage out of the storm drain into the sewer rather than closing that wing of the mall, which would have been expensive to store owners."
The American Grill was closed for only 30 minutes.
Diamant said they decided against pumping the creek.
"We are going to allow the stuff to dissipate on its own," he said.