MAGNA, Utah (ABC4 News) – A large earthquake rattled Utah the morning of March 18th, now a month later we still feel aftershocks.

With all of the shaking going on, is the water supply in Magna in any danger? Nerves are a little frayed after the boil order from last week when a raccoon was found in a water tank.

ABC4 News spoke with Clint Dilley, Magna Water District Engineer.

He said there are a few things people should understand. He explained approximately 85% of Magna’s water is pumped from groundwater, the other comes from the Jordan Water District. Ten years ago a new water treatment plant was built for the supply, so Magna water as traditionally mentioned no longer exists. They have much better water quality now, with 50% of the mineral content gone from the water.

Is there a danger of water contamination if the Kennecott tailings pond was breached by the earthquake?

Although anything can happen, the most likely answer is no.

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If there is a breach the tailings pond is designed to move towards the Great Salt Lake. If a failure happened the tailings pond is outside of the recharging area it should not be a problem.

The tailings pond has been in operation since 1905 through several ownerships of the mining facility. Rio Tinto is the current owner.

According to documents found online by ABC4 News, during the last decade, Rio Tinto has put significant effort to make the tailings pond area safer, more durable during tectonic episodes like the earthquake we just had and the subsequent aftershocks.

Twenty-four years ago an environmental study on the tailings pond was completed. Since then massive efforts have gone into making the area safe and cleaning up the environment. You can read the document below ABC4 News found at health.utah.gov

Dilley said that he did not have an active dam failure model for the area, but one is on file at the Division of Dam Safety. Rio Tinto is required to provide the flood model info.

According to online documents, over the last few years, Rio Tinto has made a significant investment in making the pond safer and mitigating environmental damage. Wildlife species have returned to living around the edges of the area, according to the tailings document you can download above 5700 acres have been reclaimed.

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A spokesperson for Kennecott said in a written statement to ABC4 News:

“Inspections and data from the extensive geotechnical monitoring system for our tailings facilities have confirmed there has been no impact from the aftershocks this week. Kennecott’s tailings facilities are being actively monitored and managed, under a plan reviewed and endorsed by a panel of independent geotechnical experts and Utah’s dam regulatory authorities. An extensive state of the art monitoring network is being used with multiple layers of protection, including more than 400 piezometers continually monitoring pore pressure in the embankment, accelerometers which monitor seismic movement, and InSar satellite technology.”

The document below goes into extreme detail about the monitoring of the tailings pond.

Magna, Rio Tinto, and the State of Utah have worked together for years, knowing they were in a place vulnerable to earthquakes and tectonic shifts. Although anything can happen, everyone has worked hard to try to keep the community water and the community itself as safe as possible from an accident with the tailings pond.

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