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Were there warning signs before the NSL landslide?

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NORTH SALT LAKE -- The Utah Geological Survey said it has reports dating back as far as the 1980s, identifying the potential for landslides in the same area where a catastrophic slide destroyed one home and forced the evacuation of 27 others.

"There's a lot of clay, volcanic rock, there are landslides throughout this whole mountain area right here," Jessica Castleton with the Utah Geological Survey said in an interview Tuesday with FOX 13.

While Castleton cited four separate reports (two from the state, two from private consultants) that warned of landslide potential, she said Utah does not have any authority to prohibit development in the area.

"That's up to the engineers and the cities as they're doing their more detailed investigations of the area," she said.

North Salt Lake officials confirmed they had identified problems in the area, beginning with a crack in the soil last fall.

"At the time, they decided the best thing would be to remove some of the soil on the steep slope so it wouldn't be as steep and to help alleviate that pressure," said Paul Ottoson, the North Salt Lake City Engineer.

The cracking re-occurred earlier in the summer, he told reporters at a news conference Tuesday.

"We got very concerned about it," Ottoson said. "The developer started getting some bids to start removing some of the material up on top. That had started and unfortunately, because of the rains we had recently, we had a very serious event."

Tuesday's landslide is the third such event in recent years in the area. Slides occurred on Lofty Lane and in the Springhill neighborhood. In Springhill, the city ended up buying 11 homes to tear down because of the slides.

But North Salt Lake Mayor Len Arave said you cannot compare the slides to what happened Tuesday.

"Although we've had three problems in close proximity, the causes are significantly different. It's not the same," he said. "Yes, we're on a hillside and there are geological issues that need to be dealt with when we build homes here. We'll look at them, examine them and learn from them."

The Utah Geological Survey maintains a database of reports on geological hazards across the state. Search for reports for your community by clicking this link.

5 comments

  • Michelle Starika Greene

    Unfortunately, when you build on a mountainside, especially one that once was a gravel pit, this is what happens…sad for the families that have lost everything, but gravity happens on unstable ground

  • Just sayin

    Unfortunately, the city planner and engineer should take the blame. They had access to facts, yet still decided to ok building there. They also didn’t do enough research on stericycle before giving the okay to build down in the flats. I understand that people should do their own research before making a major purchase, but most don’t.

  • Forest from the trees

    Not a whole lot of sympathy here. Anyone who decides to buy or build on a mountainside is just rolling the dice. In this case the dice didn’t come out in their favor. Just another bonified engineering disaster that could have been avoided with but a little common sense. I can only imagine what might happen when the big one does strike along the wasatch front. I’m no engineer, but I can’t imagine it would take a whole lot of shaking to destroy any of those houses built into the side of the mountain.

  • Trish Ramirez

    You can’t blame city planners and engineers for your own greed and a narcissism and ignorance – your need to be ostentatious and flaunt your wealth by buying the biggest house on the highest hill. Anyone who has any understanding of geology knows that the hills are where the action’s at. And basic physics will tell you all about gravity. You build your McMansion on a hill, near a fault, under another hill and you get what you get.

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