The order, which was originally slated to be in effect for 48 hours, came Thursday, Aug. 31 after chemicals and wastewater from a recreational vehicle parked at the Entrada construction site, near 400 North, was dumped onto the ground at the hydrant and potentially seeped into the ground near water lines connected to a hydrant.
Luckily for Moab residents in the affected area, lab tests were completed quickly.
According to the city, results showed that no contaminants of a chemical or bacteriological nature were found in water samples taken from neighborhood water systems. The all clear was given late on Friday, Sept. 1 after the city issued a press release informing residents they could once again use tap water.
“The potential contaminant was primarily non-toxic and the only potential toxic substance was in such tiny amounts that it posed no health danger,” said Moab City Communications Manager Lisa Church. “The biological tests were performed on some 14 samples taken from throughout the potentially affected area on Moab’s west side and the results, returned at just past 7 p.m. on Friday, showed the city’s culinary water system was not contaminated.”
The order affected nearly 500 homes near 400 North, west of 500 West and included all of the Grand Oasis mobile home park, residents on West Hale Drive west of Alberta Court, and residents of Stewart Lane, Apple Lane and River Sands Road and River Sands Drive and Portal Vista Loop in the Portal Vista Subdivision, as well all homes located west of 500 West on 400 North, extending to the city’s sewer treatment plant.
After distributing flyers to nearly the entire northwest portion of the city, the Moab City Water Department provided free drinking water at the site of the former Allen Memorial Hospital, on 400 North.
According to city and county officials on scene, the contamination occurred when a construction manager at the Entrada site released wastewater from a camper he was living in.
Grand County Environmental Health Scientist Orion Rogers said Southeastern Utah Health Department was working closely with City of Moab officials to determine what caused the contamination — and then clean it up.
“There was a potential contamination of the city water system in the affected area, due to the illegal release of wastewater from an RV trailer,” Rogers said. “The trailer that released the water was parked on-site and belongs to the construction manager.” The builder of Entrada, a townhome development just north of the Grand Oasis community on 400 North, is Roger Knight Construction of West Valley City. Requests for comment from the company regarding the contamination were not immediately returned.
Rogers said that the county and city will be testing the water and soil to determine what contaminants and what level of contamination occurred.
“During the day, [Grand County] has been taking all forms of water and soil samples throughout the area and those samples were taken by the City of Moab Public Works Department,” Rogers said. “The water samples [went] to our laboratory in Price, while samples of the contaminant and soil went to a lab in Salt Lake City. With those tests, we’re going to try to determine exactly what was in that contaminant.”
According to Church, the dumped water pooled around the base of a fire hydrant at the construction site resulting in soil being saturated to a depth of “approximately 10 feet.” The crew from public works spent much of Thursday afternoon excavating and removing the contaminated soil, ultimately hauling away 40 cubic yards of wet soil.
“Because of how the hydrant was operated, officials said the volume of contaminated water dumped at the site created the potential for some of that water to make its way into the city water lines that are connected to that hydrant, thereby posing a threat to the residential areas served by those specific lines,” Church said. “For that reason, and because the Health Department and City [did] not yet know what chemicals or other contaminants were in the blue water, a ‘bottled water only’ order was issued Thursday to residents who live in the affected area.”
As of Wednesday, Sept. 6, no citations or other official warnings had been issued to Roger Knight Construction or the owner of the vehicle by either City of Moab or Grand County officials.
“The city is currently examining its options for legal and possibly criminal action against the contractor,” Church said. “City officials are also putting together an after-action report detailing the situation and the overall response effort, and will present the report to the Moab City Council within a month. It will also be available to the public.”