Who do I call? (for geologic-hazard problems)

By Rebecca L. Hylland

So, you have water uncontrollably seeping into your basement, or you live on a hillside and nature has moved your front walk 30 feet downslope. If your understanding of geologic processes is limited and you do not know the cause of the problem or the financial investment required for repairs, situations like these can be frustrating. Professional help to solve the problem is needed, who do you call?

For situations similar to those described above, contact the public works department (engineering, planning, or development services division) of your city or county. The problem may be one these agencies can repair. If the city or county cannot help you, a geotechnical consultant or consulting firm should be contacted. Many are listed in the telephone book under the headings “Geologists” and “Engineers-Geotechnical.” The home/property owner should contact several consultants to compare cost estimates on services.

Geotechnical consulting firms have engineers and geologists who are trained to identify and mitigate geologic hazards (slope instability, shallow-ground-water, and earthquake hazards to list a few). The professional can recommend and design drainage systems for home foundations and slopes and can recommend methods to stabilize slopes and reconstruct yards. Geotechnical consultants can also determine whether or not the geologic hazard is local (your property only) or part of a larger feature with the potential to affect several pieces of property or a neighborhood.

Where does the Utah Geological Survey (UGS) fit in? We respond to emergency calls if a home, property, neighborhood, or community is in life-threatening danger from a geologic hazard. In these situations, a city or county may ask the UGS to assess the hazard, and advise them on a course of action. To document and understand geologic hazards, the UGS encourages cities, counties, and the public to inform us of events when they occur so that we may investigate the hazard if warranted.