- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Tests have confirmed there are no contaminants in Eagle Mountain’s water supply after someone broke into the city’s reservoir, authorities said Tuesday.

Residents had been forgoing showers and stockpiling bottled water after a hiker discovered the break-in Monday, raising fears about the security of the water supply.

Officials urged residents to avoid drinking city water after the break-in was reported. But a statement from the city late Tuesday afternoon said everyone could resume using water normally after the test results from a state-certified laboratory came back clear.

No unusual tastes, odors or other issues had been reported, but Eagle Mountain public works director Dave Norman said officials wanted to be overly cautious after the break-in. They disconnected the reservoir from the water supply and advised residents to avoid tap water for drinking, cooking, showering and brushing teeth. Instead, residents were told to use bottled water or any safe stored water they have at home.

Aubrey Johnson, 29, said having water already stored made things easier for her family, including three children, ages 6, 4 and 1.

“It was a big eye-opener as to how easily something so significant can be taken away,” she said after getting word Tuesday evening that the water was safe. “We were grateful that we already had our stock.”

The family put a sign on every faucet so no one would forgetfully use one, Johnson said. She said she warmed bottled water in the microwave to wash her children’s hair before school.

Michael Sharp, manager of the Ridley’s Family Market, one of the few grocery stores in the area, said it sold out of bottled water after more than 400 cases were purchased Tuesday, with customers scooping up four or five cases at a time. The market then put in a rush order for an extra truck of bottled water that arrived Tuesday afternoon, but Sharp said that too was selling quickly.

“We’re flying through it nonstop,” he said.

The store’s water system is also shut off, so workers used bottled water to mist produce and keep it moist, Sharp said. “It’s the best we can do right now since we don’t know what’s going on with the water,” he said.

The city reservoir sits in remote foothills above Eagle Mountain, a city of about 23,000 people about 40 miles south of Salt Lake City. It can hold up to 2 million gallons of water, but officials said they don’t believe it was full at the time.

The reservoir resembles a large, below-ground swimming pool with a concrete lid covered by dirt, Norman said. A locked gate protecting the reservoir had been broken Monday, as was a metal hatch above the ground to access the reservoir.

Someone would need bolt-cutters or a similar tool to break in, he said. The Utah County Sheriff’s Office was investigating.

Residents live within half a mile of the reservoir, and people can ride by it on bicycles and ATV trails, so officials hoped the culprit was just someone nearby who was curious about the metal hatch, Norman said.

When asked about the possibility of terrorism, Norman said officials have to consider that as a possibility.

“You have to consider that somebody would be trying to tamper with the water system,” he said. “I don’t think that that’s the case, and I hope that it’s not. But you have to at least consider it.”

There are no security cameras at the site, and reservoirs are checked once a week, Norman said. Officials plan to install alarm systems at that reservoir and four other city storage tanks and check the sites daily.

Tampering with a public water system is a federal offense that carries penalties of up to 20 years in prison and $1 million fine.

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Follow Michelle L. Price at https://twitter.com/michellelprice . Associated Press writer Joseph Altman in Phoenix contributed to this report.


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