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Cause of Garvey Reservoir Leaks Elusive


Nearly three months after two leaks in Garvey Reservoir flooded a dozen homes on Fulton Avenue in Monterey Park, the Metropolitan Water District and state regulatory officials said they still have not determined the cause of the leaks.

A complete investigation could take up to 18 months and repairs could require another 18 months, said Vernon Persson, chief of the Division of Safety of Dams for the state Department of Water Resources.

The news did not sit well with Fulton Avenue residents whose properties were flooded last November as a result of the leaks.

"It's a cover-up," said resident Ruth Keller, one of about 50 people who attended a meeting last week with water and safety officials.

Keller and her neighbors said they believe water district officials knew of the cracks years ago, but Charles Nichols, chief engineer for the district, said the problem did not surface until a dozen homes were flooded.

Although the water district, which owns the reservoir, and the division of dam safety want to refill the reservoir once repairs are made, Fulton Avenue homeowners and others demanded that the 48-acre reservoir be closed permanently.

"We don't want it here," resident Frank Cuda said. "I don't think we want to settle for anything less."

Traude Gomez said she is concerned about the loss of property value and the potential danger to residents. "If that thing breaks, we are in a very densely populated area," Gomez said. "You want to work on prevention, you don't want to wait until something happens."

At the meeting, Nichols showed residents a slide presentation detailing the investigation of the leaks. In November, after divers discovered the cracks as well as holes nearly the size of two adult fists, the reservoir was drained and geologists were sent in to examine the cracks.

One crack was four to six inches wide, and drilling showed that some of the cracks were as deep as 65 feet, Nichols said.

Asked if the state would consider closing the reservoir, Persson told the audience, "that is a possibility," but added: "We don't think, from an engineering standpoint, that will be the outcome, but it could be."

The reservoir serves 7 million residents in 25 communities, including Montebello, South El Monte and El Monte. It does not serve Monterey Park. The water is piped in from Northern California and the Colorado River, said Jay Malinowski, assistant director of public affairs for the water district.

Without the water supply from the reservoir, there could be a serious water shortage for residents of those cities this summer, Malinowski said.

Last week's meeting was the first session of the Garvey Reservoir Citizens Advisory Council, which the Monterey Park City Council created last month to study the reservoir leaks.

City Engineer John Lathrop said all interested residents will be considered members of the council, but Councilwoman Judy Chu said she has urged residents to select a chairman and steering committee.

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