Moab City issued a bottled water order on Aug. 31 for residents of affected neighborhoods and streets after a recreational vehicle dumped a blue-colored liquid near a fire hydrant on 400 North at the Entrada construction site.
A report to the city council on Tuesday provided further details into what happened and gave insight into the city’s response.
The possible contamination was noticed on the morning of Aug. 31 when Moab City water superintendent Levi Jones observed the blue fluid pooling around a construction hydrant. Jones observed erosion around the hydrant where the chemical had pooled and realized that the chemical may have contaminated the culinary water system through the hydrant’s stop-waste drain hole.
Jones notified his supervisors and the Southeast Utah Health Department, which, after speaking with city staff, issued the bottled water order.
City officials quickly responded, the report said, distributing flyers in English and Spanish to 500 residences. Moab City police officers and Grand County sheriff’s deputies mobilized to distribute the flyers before school let out for the afternoon. The city also posted a notice to the city Facebook page and sent a news release to local newspaper and radio stations. All Grand County schools were notified of the incident and asked to advise students not to drink tap water in case they arrived home before their parents.
City manager David Everitt praised the response by the police department and other city staff.
“It was impressive how people worked well together … communication was stellar,” he said.
According to city officials, an RV parked on the construction site and used by an employee of the Roger Knight construction company dumped the blue-colored water.
“Because the potential contaminant was unknown and all agreed that the responses from the on-site construction manager were not to be presumed to be accurate, testing of the potential contaminant was necessary to identify the nature of the chemicals involved,” the report read.
As a result, samples of city water and of the contaminant were sent to Salt Lake City for bacteriological and chemical testing. Bacteriological testing was necessary to check water for E. coli or other bacteria present.
The dumped water had saturated the soil up to 10 feet away from the hydrant. The city removed 40 cubic yards of contaminated soil from the area that afternoon.
On the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 1, lab results showed that the liquid was not toxic in the concentrations present. Bacteriological test results that evening showed that bacteria levels in the culinary water system were not elevated and at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, the bottled water order was lifted.
“There is a decent amount of labor and expenses associated with this and the city; we are evaluating our enforcement and restitution options,” Everitt said.
The Moab City Code prohibits occupying a dwelling without a proper sewer connection or lawful on-site waste disposal system. It also authorizes fines for allowing wastewater or septic tanks to overflow. The city and the SEUHD tracked their expenses and plan to submit those numbers to the construction contractor for repayment.
“While the inconvenience of an overnight bottled water ban was not insignificant, ensuring that the [c]ity’s supply of drinking water is safe and reliable mandated a precautionary approach,” the report concludes.