Landslide08

The landslide in Riverdale continues to encroach on four evacuated homes on 600 West, including this one, photographed on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018.

RIVERDALE — A representative from the secondary-water provider accused in a lawsuit in connection with the Riverdale landslide is rebuffing charges the entity is to blame in the matter.

"I can't imagine that any of our water was even present when that slough took place," Ben Quick, general manager of Pineview Water Systems, said Wednesday.

Riverdale Mayor Norm Searle, meanwhile, declined comment, saying city officials typically maintain a low public profile when the city's brought to court. "We usually don't really say much. There doesn't seem to be any advantage (to) our making comments. In fact, it could work against us," he said.

Likewise, a rep from the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, a water provider, also declined comment, citing the ongoing nature of the lawsuit, filed Dec. 28, 2018, in 2nd District Court in Ogden.

Four landowners impacted by the landslide, which dates to November 2017, filed suit against Riverdale, Washington Terrace, Pineview and Weber Basin, among others, faulting them in connection with the matter. A section of a bluff in Riverdale started wearing away in late 2017 and has little by little destroyed the yards behind four homes, now vacated, putting them at risk of falling down the steep rise.

The defendants have yet to formally respond, but Washington Terrace Mayor Mark Allen reiterated earlier this week city leaders' contention that leakage from the city's water system is not a factor in the landslide, as the lawsuit charges. Quick of Pineview, which provides secondary water for irrigation, is similarly rebuffing responsibility.

Pineview had turned off irrigation water to its customers on Oct. 15, 2017, a little over a month before the landslide started on Nov. 19, 2017, and it's unlikely, Quick said, that the system's water would have still been present when the erosion started. Sloughing typically occurs, he said, with moist soil, when it loses its cohesiveness. At any rate, the matter has been turned over to Pineview's insurance company for review.

Meanwhile, a report in the January edition of Survey Notes, a magazine published by the Utah Geological Survey, cited the presence of "abundant groundwater" and natural springs in the area, reiterating state geologists' prior explanations of the event. The landslide has inundated a broad area at the base of the bluff with soil and mud.

"Following initial landslide movement, water flowing from springs near the base of the cliff face continued to erode the lower deposit to form a smooth alluvial fan. In addition, the steep headscarp was being undercut by spring water flow carrying sediment away and causing further landslide activity, driving the cliff face closer to the evacuated homes...," the Survey Notes report reads.

The zone, it continued, is "within an area of previously mapped landslides along the bluff." While saying activity slowed through last summer, it also warned that things may not be over.

"The active springs at the base of the landslide scarp continue to create a high risk for landslide activity and resulting damage to land and infrastructure," it reads.

The plaintiffs behind the lawsuit are the owners of three of the four homes threatened by the landslide and the owner of the land below the bluff that has been inundated with material that has eroded.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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