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Alex Cabrero,
Water from the Provo River Aqueduct flooded at least three homes in Pleasant Grove, Thursday, March 28, 2013.
We think people expect us to manage this thing properly, and we will do that. We don't know how this happened, but we will make sure it never happens again. —Steve Cain, Provo River Water Users Association

PLEASANT GROVE — Muddy furniture, books, laundry and other decor, personal belongings and memorabilia were set out to dry after a nearby aqueduct overflowed Thursday, sending untreated water into the homes along the old Murdock Canal.

Homeowners and neighbors scrambled in and out of at least three homes to remove anything that could be ruined by an influx of dirty city water just before 11 a.m.

"It came down my backyard and into the window well in the kitchen downstairs, busted out the window and it raised about a foot-and-a-half," said Stephanie Vincent, whose home on Millcreek Road was flooded. It sits directly across the street from the canal.

"It is what it is," she said. "If you get mad, it's not going to help."

No one was injured and anything that was damaged can fortunately be replaced, she said.

"We think people expect us to manage this thing properly, and we will do that," said Steve Cain, facilities manager for the Provo River Water Users Association, which operates the pipeline. "We don't know how this happened, but we will make sure it never happens again."

The water came quickly and unexpectedly as the newly revamped aqueduct was being filled in preparation for the early irrigation season, Cain said. A construction project involving enclosure of the canal had recently been completed and inspectors had passed over one of the hatches or manhole covers, which wasn't properly closed.

"For some reason, this one was not fully secured and the inspectors missed seeing that, and water was able to come out of that hatch and run across from the east side to the west side of Canyon Road and affect some homes," Cain said.

Formerly known as the Provo Reservoir Canal — and the Murdock Canal by locals — the 21-mile pipeline is now called the Provo River Aqueduct and has the capacity to carry more than 400 million gallons of water daily. It starts at the mouth of Provo Canyon in Orem and runs to the Point of the Mountain in Salt Lake County, running through Orem, Lindon, Pleasant Grove, Cedar Hills, American Fork, Highland, Lehi and Bluffdale.

In 2010, a project began to completely enclose the canal for safety reasons and to allow a rake system to remove debris from the line, providing better quality water and a savings of more than 8,000 acre-feet per year to evaporation and seepage. The water source is fueled primarily by water leaving the Provo River and is distributed to shareholders along the line.

A $17 million trail is being built along the top of the buried pipeline.

Upon recognition of the problem Thursday, the water was immediately shut off and the pipeline was drained. Police and fire personnel responded and were assisting homeowners with the cleanup effort until a commercial party was called in by the association to help.

Water was at least 3 inches in the basement of another home, Cain said. No one was evacuated due to the flooding.

Cain said the water in the line is "raw," or natural water found in the environment, and is untreated.

"It's kind of dirty water if you look at it," he said, adding that any bacteria in the water would only be a concern if the water was allowed to stand for some time. Emergency mitigation has already begun and would likely preclude any temporary or long-term displacement of families that experienced flooding.

"Everybody is fine. It's all stuff we can deal with. It's nothing we can't deal with," Vincent said.

Contributing: Alex Cabrero

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