The Graves Reservoir that sits just inside the San Marino city limits is well on its way to meeting its completion date of early 2020. Photo by Steve Whitmore

The South Pasadena multi-million-dollar Graves Reservoir reconstruction project that will bring the last of the city’s five non-operational reservoirs online is on track and expected to be ready to accept the 1 million gallons of water it’s capable of holding next year, according to city officials.

The more than $12-million project, which broke ground back in August of last year, 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 So Pas Public Works staff believe are over 100 years old.

Moreover, the project has demolished the old crumbling reservoir located just inside San Marino city limits and is replacing it with a new one.

“The Graves Reservoir is moving forward and on schedule,” John Pope, So Pas public information officer, said last week in an email to The Review. “The contractor completed the concrete pour of the reservoir walls last week, which is a big milestone in the project.”

Pope estimates the entire project will be completed in “early 2020.”

The Graves Reservoir project was undertaken while the city was battling residential water discoloration, which prompted scores of complaints.

The project will bolster and diversify South Pasadena’s water supply, which will help in preventing the discoloration because the city will not be forced to use outside water supplies like it did when the state increased the requirements for 1.2.3.-Trichloropropane (1.2.3.-TCP). The city did not have the required filtration system in place to meet the requirement so it was forced to blend its own groundwater with Metropolitan Water District (MWD) surface water, which added to the discoloration.

City officials said that if Graves had been operational, the water discoloration would 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.”

Courdy further explained the situation with the state unfunded mandate of TCP, identified as a carcinogen to humans.

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

The project was estimated to take about 18 months to complete, 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,” Pope said in an earlier interview.

City Councilman Michael Cacciotti also 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 during an earlier interview. “We replaced and built four state-of-the-art water reservoirs and are working on the fifth reservoir at this moment.”

Located just across city limits in San Marino, Graves is presently a ramshackle collection of aging infrastructure. The projected cost of the project has been set at $12.2 million, according to city officials.

Back on May 16, the So Pas 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 now the Graves Reservoir Replacement Projects.

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

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.

Former Review Editor Harry Yadav contributed to this report.

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Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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