Graves Reservoir Reconstruction Project Set to Break Ground in August

Graves Reservoir is currently out of use because it is out of compliance with seismic and safety standards. Its roof, pictured here, caved in two years ago. Photo by Harry Yadav

South Pasadena is currently in the preconstruction phase of a project to replace Graves Reservoir, which, with a storage capacity of approximately 1 million gallons, is the only one of the city’s five reservoirs that is currently non-operational.

One of the final steps in what city staff have described as “an aggressive water capital improvement program” undertaken in the past five years, the Graves reconstruction project 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.

Located just across city limits on Granada Avenue in San Marino, Graves is presently a ramshackle collection of aging infrastructure. The projected $12.1 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.

The city expects to break ground on the project in mid-August, Kristine Courdy, South Pasadena Public Works Operation Manager, said Monday. It is expected to take around 18 months to complete.

“This will help to make our water system more resilient and diversify our water source,” Courdy said. “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 continued, 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, out of compliance with California Department of Public Health standards and codes, and experiencing subsidence.

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

South Pasadena’s Public Works staff has been working closely with San Marino’s Public Works and Planning Departments on project mitigation and community outreach to ensure the construction process is as undisruptive to neighbors as possible.

A ground breaking ceremony is being planned for a date before the demolition process begins.