96 South Main Street, PO Box 77, Nephi, Utah 84648 - Voice: 435 623-0525 - FAX: 435 623-4735

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By Myrna Trauntvein
Times-News Correspondent

On March 4, 2019 it was discovered that somewhere within the Nephi City culinary water system a cross connection had been made with the secondary irrigation system.

“At this point in time it is unclear as to where the cross connection has occurred,” said Kyle Marchant, P.E., city public works director. “We have all of the city water crew and the irrigation company crews trying to locate the cross connection point.”

The one thing the city did not want to happen was that the homeowner, who had made a connection error, if that was what was causing the problem, would go ahead and fix it and not tell the city. If that happened, he said, the city would not dare let the irrigation system be pressurized until the spot was found.

“We cannot charge the line until we know where the problem is,” he said.

Marchant gave a memo to each of the council members telling them of the problem during city council meeting on Tuesday.

The irrigation system drains to the west of the city. In that drain, it was discovered that there was chlorinated water.

Because the irrigation system is not currently active there is no imminent danger to the Nephi City Culinary Water System, he said.

“The irrigation system cannot and will not be pressurized until the cross connection can be identified,” said Marchant.

Public safety is of the utmost importance to the city, it is not the intent of this process to punish anyone, but the cross connection must be located before the irrigation system can be activated.

“We are asking for help from anyone that is connected to the secondary irrigation system to aid in identifying the precise location,” Marchant said. “If anyone with secondary irrigation water has recently made any adjustments to their sprinkler system we need to know so that we can verify that their connection is not cross connected to the Nephi City culinary water system.”

He said that the city will need any info that can be provided from secondary irrigation water users.

“It is of extreme importance that we find out where this connection is so that we can guarantee that the cross connection is identified, discontinued, and public safety can be maintained,” said Marchant.

The city and the irrigation company will continue to work together to locate the cross connection and any info can be reported to either agency.

Skip Worwood, city council member, asked if the leak was from the failure of an old valve or an old line and how long Marchant estimated that there had been a problem.

“We can’t say,” Marchant said. “Maybe somebody opened a valve and/or one failed. It could be an old line.”

Every month, Marchant said, the city performs a water test and there has never been a bad test.

The culinary system is pressurized at a higher rate than the irrigation line but, it could also be, that some homeowner decided to connect the irrigation line and the city culinary line into the same delivery system.

That might be done by a homeowner who wanted to make certain that the outside property could be watered even when the irrigation system might be off.

“That is against the law,” said Glade Nielson, mayor.

There was not going to be a punishment or finger pointing, said Marchant.

“There will be no blame or fines,” said Seth Atkinson, city administrator.

“We can’t physically see where the problem is,” he said.

One thing the city is looking for is places of high usage. That might indicate that the culinary line and the irrigation line were connected because, since the irrigation line is not charged, the culinary water might be flowing back through the irrigation line.

He said that they were using overlaid maps to pinpoint high usage areas and would talk to homeowners at those locations.

“It is similar to looking for a needle in a haystack,” Marchant said.

There was not a lot of water passing through but the city was concerned and did not want the problem to escalate.

Atkinson said that the irrigation lines are normally pressurized the beginning of April but that would not happen this year unless the leak was found. That gave the water crew and the irrigation crew about a month to locate the problem.

It will not be the kind of leak that will percolate to the surface.

One other issue, said Atkinson, was that the city would depress the culinary water system because of the work being done on the water system upgrade.

“We don’t want any back flow,” said Atkinson.

Backflow is the reverse flow of contaminated water or other substances back into the drinking water. This can occur if a plumbing system is physically connected (also called a cross-connection) to any source of contamination or pollution.