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DWP starts to refill reservoir

It will take 20 days to replenish Silver Lake landmark drained to remove contaminants.

May 08, 2008|Francisco Vara-Orta | Times Staff Writer

Silver Lake Reservoir -- the century-old neighborhood landmark drained earlier this year -- started to look like its old self again Wednesday.

The reservoir got its first drink in months when officials turned on the water Wednesday to start the 20-day process of refilling its 600-million-gallon, clay-based shell.

The emptying of the reservoir began in January. Water officials said the action was necessary to eliminate contamination by bromate, a carcinogen formed by the interaction of sunlight, chlorine and natural bromides in groundwater.

Workers had spent the last few weeks cleaning the clay shell of debris and other matter.

The empty reservoir revealed hundreds of golf balls, articles of clothing and even one wedding ring -- a simple uninscribed gold band -- which is now being worn by one of the biologists who helps maintain the water.

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power spokeswoman Terry Schneider said the goal is to replenish the basin for the summer demand of drinking water.

On Wednesday morning, Los Angeles City Council members Eric Garcetti and Tom LaBonge and DWP General Manager David Nahai gathered around the reservoir as water spewed from a pipe inside a tower.

The reservoir holds drinking water for the central and southern parts of the city. Silver Lake is one of three working reservoirs in Los Angeles. The others, Elysian and Ivanhoe, are nearby. Together they serve 650,000 people a day, said Steven Cole, the DWP's water quality and operations engineer.

Silver Lake Reservoir was last drained about 20 years ago, DWP officials said. Before that, it was emptied in 1950 so that its sides could be re-sloped and paved to prevent vegetation from growing next to the water.

For a time in the early 1970s, officials considered abandoning and filling in the reservoir or replacing it with water tanks. But after much debate, Silver Lake Reservoir survived.

Now, the DWP is in talks with city officials and residents on what to do with its reservoirs. Few cities still have uncovered reservoirs, which are prone to bromate formation and susceptible to contamination of other types, such as bird droppings, Cole said.

With construction underway on enclosed tanks for drinking water, some have proposed converting the Silver Lake and neighboring Ivanhoe reservoirs into a recreation area similar to the lake in Echo Park.

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francisco.varaorta @latimes.com

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