Three days after two homes slid down a hillside and collapsed in Hidden Canyon Estates in Draper, homebuilders, city officials and residents are still working to make sense of what happened.
Edge Homes, the homebuilder, wrote in a statement released Monday that “despite all the engineering and quality control efforts,” the retaining wall and hillside slope “experienced a complete failure.”
The structural problems began many months before, although “winter conditions amplified the problems and prevented us from stabilizing the homes,” Edge continued in the statement.
“Was this a design failure by the engineers? Was this a construction failure by the excavators and retaining wall companies? Was this a combination of both, or neither? We simply cannot answer these questions today,” the company stated.
Draper city manager David Dobbins said the city got involved when property owners reached out last year worried about the structural integrity of their homes. Some of the warning signs included extensive cracking and broken doors. In October, the city declared the homes “unfit for human habitation” and residents of the compromised properties evacuated.
The city has since condemned two additional homes in the area. Edge Homes officials wrote they plan to pay for “relocation, storage, and temporary housing expenses” of the homeowners on either side of the slide area. Homeowners were planning to meet with company officials at Edge Homes’ office on Monday night.
“We haven’t identified the exact cause yet,” Dobbins said. “But any time you put that amount of water into soil conditions that are ideal, you can have those kinds of settlement issues.”
Landslides and erosion could be a problem across Utah this spring. Utah Geological Survey scientists are seeing ground movement in the Wasatch foothills. “It’s already begun. We haven’t had time to go investigate all these. We’re in the process of doing that right now,” UGS geologist Greg McDonald told The Tribune last week.
Around 5500 North and Mountain Green Drive in Morgan County, a mudslide the size of half a football field spilled down. In Emigration Canyon, between 10 to 15 landslides have occurred throughout the month, damaging at least two homes, according the UGS landslides current events log.
While certain topographies are more susceptible to landslides, there are approaches builders can take to lessen the risk, explained Ben Erickson, senior geologist with UGS, but “it just depends on the budget of the person that’s trying to build and develop the area.”
Draper city officials are urging people to stay away from the landslide area — which impacted popular hiking trails. The area will be monitored.
“Safety is the biggest concern we have,” Erickson said. “With the recent landslides that we’re seeing, some of them are pretty fast.”
Those quick moving landslides can hurt people. Erickson said people should be aware of their surroundings and look for warning signs like large amounts of water coming out of a slope.