'The Big One,' Raises Concerns for Kennecott

MAGNA, Utah (ABC4 News) - We often talk about "the big one," hitting the Beehive State.  But now we're learning it it happens it could mean trouble for Kennecott's facility on the south slope.

"This is the area of concern, we have science that has come up here within the next few months that do indicate that a large earthquake is predicted to hit the Salt Lake Valley here within the next 50 years.  About a 2-to-1 chance," says Paula Daughty Tailings and Water Services Manager at Rio Tinto Kennecott.

So, starting next week Kennecott will be installing 12 de-watering and watering wells along the slope.  They'll monitor the reaction for 6 to 12 months and analyze the results.  The goal is to remove the water from the 57,000 acre area to provide stability should a magnitude 7 or higher earthquake hit.  

"Our goal is to draw down the water table, an additional 10 to 15 feet and that is slated and predicted to stabilize this slope," says Daughty.

Kennecott has already found some success with de-watering wells just north of the 1.8 mile stretch of land where they plan to place the wells.  These wells are expected to collect about 7 gallons of water each minute.  

"We think that in about 2 years we will have drawn down that water enough where'd we'd be stable," says Daughty.

The area has concerned the staff at Kennecott for over 20 years, which is why they're moving to stabilize the region as fast as they can.  Without these measures the earthquake could trigger a landslide that would cover the 201 and the surrounding area.

"This is something that we've been working on for 25 years.  What's different now is that the science is out there now that's telling us that we could have a major earthquake here in the next 50 years," says Daughty.  


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