Turkey truck crash into Utah reservoir sparks fears of contamination
Contamination • One district closes Deer Creek Reservoir feed as a precaution.
Published: April 24, 2014 05:50PM
Updated: April 24, 2014 09:46PM
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(Courtesy state parks) A semi truck hauling hundreds of live turkeys crashed into Deer Creek Reservoir early Thursday, April 24, 2014.

A semitrailer truck hauling hundreds of live turkeys crashed early Thursday into Deer Creek Reservoir, injuring the driver and spilling turkeys into the water.

The crash raised fears of water contamination downstream, and at least one district closed off its water supply from the reservoir.

The Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake and Sandy had closed the reservoir’s feed to the Salt Lake Aqueduct as a precaution on Thursday. Administrators from the Metropolitan district and the Jordan Valley Conservancy district, which shares the aqueduct’s supply, said the closure would not affect operations.

“We’ve got plenty of supply from Little Cottonwood Canyon that’s meeting our needs, so it’s not really a disruption,” said Metropolitan district manager Mike Wilson.

Crews have taken samples to test for contamination since the crash, which may have exposed water supplies to fuel and possible biological contaminants connected to the 700 turkeys on board the truck, many of which perished in the water.

The driver was traveling south on U.S. Highway 189 into Provo Canyon about 6:20 a.m., when he approached a bend in the road near the Deer Creek dam, Utah Highway Patrol troopers wrote in a press statement.

The trailer hit the right guardrail, tearing it out of the ground as the trailer rolled over the guardrail and pulled the truck with it, troopers wrote.

The rig rolled into the reservoir, but the 32-year-old driver from Elsinore was thrown from the truck and did not land in the reservoir, said Utah State Parks spokesman Eugene Swalberg.

The driver was taken to a hospital; his injuries were not considered life-threatening, troopers wrote.

Many of the turkeys died in the crash, Swalberg said.

A photograph from the scene shows the trailer partly submerged with several turkeys still in crates, while other turkeys were on the reservoir’s rocky shore. The company that owns the turkeys had collected all of the crates as of 2 p.m. and was separating the dead birds from the live birds, said UHP Sgt. Todd Royce.

Meanwhile, crews on Thursday afternoon were trying to remove the truck and trailer from the reservoir.

Responders set up booms soon after the crash to contain the fuel and have mopped much of it off the surface, but it spread to 1,500 to 2,000 feet of shoreline, said Wasatch County Health Department spokesman Chris Smoot.

“We still are concerned about the diesel fuel, just for the wildlife,” Smoot said.

The water supply remained a concern Thursday afternoon, but less so as fuel was absorbed by clean-up crews. The Provo River Water Users Association and representatives from the three affected water districts were inspecting for contamination. The Jordan Valley and Central Utah water conservancy districts receive water from the reservoir via a diversion in the Provo River farther downstream; that supply had not been closed as of Wednesday afternoon. Smoot noted that the fuel was floating at the water’s surface, but the conduits to the aqueduct and the Provo River both are 90 feet deep in the reservoir.

The crash occurred about a tenth of a mile from the dam. It occurred in a boat-restricted area, so boating was not be affected at the reservoir during the day, Swalberg said.

The right lane of southbound U.S. 189 likely was closed all day while crews removed the truck and replaced the guardrail, the UHP reported. Traffic was being alternated in the other lanes.

The Utah Department of Transportation estimated the road would be re-opened by 11 p.m.

The Tribune will report further details as they become available.

ealberty@sltrib.com