John Pope, South Pasadena’s interim public information officer, discusses the Graves Reservoir reconstruction project. Photos by Steve Whitmore

South Pasadena is in the final stages of the anticipated groundbreaking Saturday for Graves Reservoir, the last of the city’s five reservoirs that is non-operational, city officials announced this week.

Saturday’s groundbreaking marks the city’s ongoing “aggressive water capital improvement program” that will eventually make available about 1 million gallons of water, which is the estimated storage capacity of Graves Reservoir. The project is estimated to take about 18 months to complete, according to city officials. Saturday’s groundbreaking is at the reservoir, 2225 El Molino Ave., in San Marino and starts at 10 a.m., according to city officials.

“The Graves Reservoir is a critical part of the city’s water infrastructure, and the replacement project will help insure both the continuity and sustainability of the water supply for decades to come,” said John Pope, the city’s interim public information officer. “We’re excited to break ground this week and get started on construction. The project is moving along as scheduled toward the anticipated 2020 completion date.”

The Graves reconstruction project also is expected to bolster and diversify South Pasadena’s water supply. At a time when residents are experiencing discolored water due to the use of Metropolitan Water District (MWD) surface water, the benefits of having an additional clean and functional ground water reserve are especially evident, Pope said.

City Councilman Michael Cacciotti said the efforts of the city to bolster the water supply have been “extraordinary,” and have been ongoing for decades.

“Since my early days on the City Council, I have been instrumental in working with my colleagues on the City Council to embark on the largest Capital Improvement Program in our city’s history,” Cacciotti said. “We replaced and built four state-of-the-art water reservoirs and are working on the fifth reservoir at this moment.”

City Officials plan the groundbreaking scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday. Photo by Steve Whitmore

Located just across city limits on Granada Avenue in San Marino, Graves is presently a ramshackle collection of aging infrastructure. The projected $12.2 million reconstruction project calls for seismic improvements, the installation of granulated activated carbon (GAC) and ion-exchange treatment technologies, and the replacement of aging pipes, some of which Public Works staff believe are over 100 years old.

On May 16, the City Council voted to accept a $9,312,400 bid from Pacific Hydrotech Corporation to oversee the project’s construction. Pacific Hydrotech Corp. has worked with the city on two of its most recent water capital improvement program endeavors, the Wilson and Graves Reservoir Replacement Projects.

In April, the city secured a low interest loan, 30 years at 1.7 percent, from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. The city will not begin paying the loan until the project is complete, a staff report says. The city has also received a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency for an amount not to exceed $291,000 to fund the project.

City officials said that if Graves had been operational, the water discoloration could have been avoided.

“This will help to make our water system more resilient and diversify our water source,” Kristine Courdy, South Pasadena Public Works operation manager, said in an earlier interview. “Although all of our wells are in the same basin – the Upper San Gabriel Main Basin – having wells in multiple locations is a benefit for our city.”

“Look at what we’re experiencing with 1,2,3–TCP (1,2,3 Trichloropropane),” Courdy said, referencing the contaminant at the root of the water discoloration issue plaguing some residents since January. “This well at Graves would have been a supplemental water source to draw from.” 

Courdy also stressed that the infrastructure at Graves is in desperate need of upgrading. Built in the early 1900s, Graves was purchased by the city in 1939. According to the May 16 City Council agenda report, the roof of the Graves Reservoir collapsed in 2016. The report also says the structure is vulnerable to seismic events and out of compliance with California Department of Public Health standards and codes.

The project will include a new reservoir, pumping station, hypochlorite generation system and wellhead treatment system.

Correspondent Harry Yadav contributed to this report

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