Water Concerns and Public Notification

I would like to give everyone perspective on the water advisory that was issued yesterday, what caused it, and why we have taken these steps.

First, I want to acknowledge that this event has had a significant impact on many of you.  I understand and sympathize with the inconvenience and perhaps, concern, that this has caused many people. We take our responsibilities to provide you with clean water very seriously, and as of yesterday we have instituted a policy of visually inspecting every tank daily. We have identified long term solutions to improve water security.  This includes surveillance and advance notification systems.

Before I touch on other details, I would like you to do me a favor. Share the following information with EVERYONE you know. Eagle Mountain City has an email notification system which will send timely information directly to your email whenever there is an event of any significance. If you have subscribed and for some reason are not receiving emails, please contact our public information director, Linda Peterson, at lpeterson@emcity.org. This is the easiest way for us as a City to disseminate information to the public quickly. You can sign up HERE. If you would like to email the link to a friend, it is: http://bit.ly/1xxKM7y.

It is always a challenge to get information out to everyone, and I can tell you that our staff works very hard to keep residents informed.  We do a good job of using every available avenue to get residents information in a timely manner. This does not mean that we can’t improve. We are always looking for ways to improve our ability to notify every resident.

I have been greatly encouraged that so many of you as residents have not waited for a government solution. I know that neighbors were very active in distributing information to each other to get the word out. I encourage each of you to continue looking out for one another! Thank you for being a community that cares about each other.

We are currently waiting for a State certified water testing laboratory to analyze the water and provide us results. We should have the results this evening around 6:00 PM. Because of the nature of the testing process, there is no faster way to get results back. We have obtained field testing equipment, and we are now analyzing water samples for various indicators such as PH, total solids, and conductivity. The introduction of contaminants into a water system typically results in the altered chemistry and or physical characteristics of the water. These tests will provide early indicators which will help us to assess the likelihood of any contamination ahead of the official lab results.

I would like to give you some insight about the water tank, and the risk of contamination from this event. The chain link fence surrounding one of our tanks was compromised and the lock latch on the water tank access hatch was cut. When the breach was identified, the water tank was filling, which means water was flowing into the tank and not out to the system.  We took action to isolate the tank immediately, though that does not mean that the tank wasn’t accessed during a time where the water was flowing out of the tank. It had been several days since the last visual inspection of the tank. While there is not yet any physical evidence that a contaminant was introduced, we firmly believe that we as government do not have any right to make health decisions for your family by withholding information. We realize there is a great impact from distributing a water advisory, and it is a serious matter. We recognize that residents, schools, and businesses alike are greatly affected by such advisories. We felt because it was obvious that someone had gained access to the system, notifying the public was the only option.

While we have a policy of inspecting each of our well houses daily, prior to yesterday the visual inspection policy for our tanks was not as rigid. This is because our well pump houses are located in areas where they are easily accessed by vehicle or foot, whereas our water tanks are mostly located in areas that require a greater degree of effort to get to. Both well pump houses and water tanks have been kept locked and in most cases, behind a gate. Following the commission of this crime, we have already implemented a policy of 100% daily visual inspection of all tanks. We will act with urgency to resolve any weaknesses through additional security measures. That is my commitment to you. As always, please feel free to leave a response to this post and I will do my best to answer any additional questions you may have.

 

 

 

40 thoughts on “Water Concerns and Public Notification

  1. Thank you for this information. I’m very grateful that the city is taking steps to increase security. This experience has helped streamline the notification process by making people more aware of the current notification methods. I think many people would also appreciate the city’s consideration of mass text notification for future issues.

  2. Thank you for the additional information. Will the City be investing in security measures such as alarms when fences or locks are breached? Daily visual inspections are great, but a lot can happen in a 24 hour period between inspections. Our community is growing which introduces more crime and more opportunity to impact a large group of people. It seems given recent events mite aggressive security measures are in order similar to what other municipalities have in place.

    • Sharon, in short, yes. The visual inspections are a temporary fix until a more comprehensive solution can be implemented. Potential solutions have already been identified. We will move quickly to vet those solutions and implement with urgency. Surveillance and tamper alarms are what we will be moving to. Thank you for your question.

    • James, If you wouldn’t mind contacting me, I would appreciate it. There are multiple tanks in the ranches and I would like to make sure I have all information available. I know that we do open gates when we enter the tanks, though they should not be left open for any reason. You may have been looking at the same tank. My number is 801-564-9342. Thank you.

    • Crystal, we will be looking at both options. I can’t tell you conclusively what action we will take to this end, though we will be looking into all possible “comprehensive” communication solutions.

  3. What if someone broke into a tank and then replaced the broken lock with a new lock? Would anyone notice? Are there any preventative measures for such a scenario?

  4. I have been notified by email, FB, Calls from School District, Friends and Church. I believe the City did a GREAT job in trying to notify all of us of the incident.
    We might want to install some type of Cameras and security/motion sensors at the Tanks. I believe this is something that on the long run will be cheaper than sending someone(s) up the hill everyday. These devices are much cheaper and better nowadays.

  5. When the secondary water was mixed with culinary water in saratoga springs a while back, residents there were notified with a notice placed on their doors. Not eveey one has access the internet and or a phone.

    • Cooper,
      We are aware that we need to be able to reach people through various methods of communication. We also recognize that every resident does not have access to, or regularly use, electronic communication. While we attempt to notify residents via multiple mediums, we have not used physical paper delivery. This type of communication presents it’s own problems. Cost, and speed are two of the drawbacks. For those that do not use email or social media, we did use electronic billboards, though this was admittedly, after several of hours had passed. My recommendation would be to contact a friend or neighbor who would be willing to notify you of any major incidents while we look for additional solutions. We will work to find additional solutions that may extend our reach and ability to distribute information quickly.

  6. Pingback: Eagle Mountain, Utah water tank breech highlights small town vunerabilities | Communities Digital News

  7. Breaching the fence and the lock doesn’t sound good.. if it wasn’t for malicious intent, what other reasons could the person(s) have had.

    • Tim, point taken. I have asked myself this very question many times. While we may never know the purpose of the individual accessing the tank, I believe the lessons have bean learned. The test has come back clean as of just a few minutes ago thankfully. Clearly however, this can not happen again.

  8. Hello Mayor, thank you for addressing these concerns. As I’ve followed this advisory and comments from EM city, I noticed one from the city office in effect writing ‘we haven’t seen this before and therefore other security was not in place..’ Will this prompt a larger security review of other critical resources? Hopefully we can help critical infrastructure become more secure until waiting for an incident.

    • Yes is the short answer. While I have not had time over the last two days to consider additional vulnerabilities in great detail, the thought has crossed my mind that it would be appropriate to give equal consideration to other infrastructure resources. I will be discussing this with staff tomorrow and we will likely set up a group to dive into this subject. While I wish we didn’t live in a world where this type of scrutiny was needed, the mandate is clear. We will get to work!

  9. As stated in a previous comment, a reverse phone call system would be nice. I did not hear of this till late last night. Do reverse phone calls reach cell phones or just land line phones? I would also like to thank you, mayor, for the prompt response to our growing security concerns.

    • Tammy,

      I have had conversations with emergency response professionals today about this subject. These systems do not contact cell phone numbers unless individuals “opt in”. This is in contrast to land lines where you must “opt out”. We will continue to research this, though it looks like other solutions may be more effective. Thank you for your question and your comments.

  10. Why was there not more details shared in the original email alert regarding the condition of the water tank? Such as, the water taking filling at the time of the issue, the cut fence, no evidence of water tampering and the range of time between visual inspections. More transparency breeds trust and will diminish citizen concerns over our local gov’t balancing their concerns with covering for themselves versus just letting the facts speak for themselves. Then add an advisory warning after all details have been shared. Did law enforcement preclude sharing these details?

    We could learn from current issues with the White House breach from negligence of the secret service as well as the shooting in Saratoga. It’s always better to be 100% transparent and have the public understanding evolve along with our local leaders as we await answers together. Withholding details that can be easily shared up front has the opposite affect. I got very little info after calling the hotline. We can be more proactive which should include automation by technology surveillance and alarms. It’s best practices from other municipalities that have been around much longer. Otherwise we are a test case doing our own thing.

    At least we can learn how to communicate better from all of this and increase our level of preparation as the leader of the LDS faith President Thomas S Monson has taught this month to be more prepared. https://www.lds.org/ensign/2014/09/are-we-prepared?lang=eng “We live in turbulent times. Often the future is unknown; therefore, it behooves us to prepare for uncertainties. When the time for decision arrives, the time for preparation is past.”

    Please address my concerns from above. Thank you.

    p.s. Please share info later on in a future blog whether there was anyone in great need so we can improve our communities by helping our neighbors better.

    • Sam,

      thank you for your comments. I truly believe that every incident is an opportunity to learn lessons and make improvements. For this reason, I established a policy of conducting a debrief after every event in order to gain insight as to where weaknesses are present and where we can improve in performing our duties to serve you, the residents. It is a charge we all take seriously.
      I will provide some insight into giving the information in the way we do through our alerts. We must always strike a balance between being informative, while providing concise information that communicates the appropriate level of urgency, and solicits the appropriate action by the reader. It is of utmost importance that we consider the audience, which in this case is somewhere approximately just over 10,000 adults. It is without a doubt, my responsibility and mine alone to make sure that we are communicating with residents appropriately, including the dissemination of interesting, if not actionable information. I want you to have the necessary information, and I want you to have your general curiosities satisfied. My priority however, will always remain with giving the necessary information first that does not introduce details that may confuse the issue or lead the reader to a potentially false conclusion.
      The logistics of communicating with this many people en mass is a challenge under any circumstance. these are some of the reasons why we subscribe to the BLUF or bottom line up front concept. As time and resources permit, I will (as I have here) freely communicate pertinent news with residents.
      You have made valid points about the way we move forward, as have many other residents. I do agree with you that there is little point to reinventing the wheel so to speak in finding solutions to the security issues we will be addressing. We have already sought and identified tested solutions which we will further vet before determining appropriate action. We will move quickly to implement the solutions.
      As to your concern about not being notified that the tank was filling, this was pertinent only if the security breach occurred within the few hours that the tank had been filling. If the breach occurred at some time prior to the filling of the tank, any contaminants would have been flowing the other direction. This possibility was enough to order a water advisory. Because we could not know for sure if the breach occurred prior to the tank filling or after, we did not want to take a risk, and this detail would have no effect on the risk to residents. I hope I answered all of your questions Sam, and if any of my answers seem short or direct, it is not intentional and I ask for your understanding. (I’m trying to type quickly)

  11. I appreciate the efforts by the city in keeping us well informed. I remain confident that Eagle Mountain is the best place to live and raise a family.

    • Dan, we believe the tank last had positive visual inspection approximately 10 days ago. We periodically visit the tanks for various water tests. We have visually inspected the tanks at the time of those tests, there has not been a purposed inspection outside of the inspections done at the time of the water tests. I hope that helps.

  12. First off, I would like to thank Mayor Pengra for his openness within the community, and to the city for taking quick action. Are there lessons to be learned? Of course! That’s how we gain more knowledge for the future. It looks like the city has a CERT program in place, but it hasn’t been implemented on a complete local level. Maybe it’s time to get this rolling into full swing. The CERT program, when done efficiently, would have notified every single resident, whether they have email, text, or none of the above, within a reasonable amount of time.
    We live in a growing town, and bumps in the road are to be expected. Our city government is learning how to deal with the growth, and the issues that come with it. We as citizens can help our city, and our community, by offering our help where ever we can.

  13. You bring up an excellent point. I will make sure to consider using the CERT team in the future. We will use this as a learning opportunity and we will make improvements. Thank you for your comments.

  14. Does the city have a way of sending out notices/alerts via text messaging? Even a text message directing me to check my email would have helped me in this situation since I do not constantly check my email throughout the day.

  15. First, thank you for your open and honest communication on this sensitive and urgent matter. Second, thank you for your immediate action to limit risk of future occurrences. I was unaware of the email system, but your use of Twitter is fantastic.

    I would like to chime in on the topic of future preventative measures. At a minimum, the city should have detection measures that provide immediate notification of intrusion. Also, the city should consider a system where tank valves close automatically at the detection of an intrusion.

  16. Having worked several projects with Central Utah Water Conservancy District, and installing security to their systems, you may want to look at their facility and tank security. Just an idea.

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