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Annual Utility Day invites public to GWP’s ‘home’

Glendale Water & Power opened its utility operations center to the public Thursday, giving visitors an opportunity to learn how and why their lights shine and faucets flow.

Roughly 650 community members and 200 students attended the annual open house that featured a behind-the-scenes look at how the utility operates via tours of its onsite power plant and informational booths.

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“[People] only see us when they pay their bills,” said Atineh Haroutunian, the utility’s public benefits marketing manager. “This is our way of inviting the community into our home, into our space, to educate and engage them.”

In the morning, a group of students from three Glendale schools headed to round-robin stations that put the spotlight on topics ranging from water conservation and operations to electrical safety and engineering.

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They also participated in several demonstrations, including one illustrating how an injured lineman can be rescued by another.

“The students really got a hands-on experience,” said Haroutunian. In previous years, students watched and listened; this year they put water pipes together and moved bottles of water around to understand how much water they waste, for example, if the faucet is on, she said.

According to electrical engineer Miguel Ibanez, the kids asked a lot of questions, expressing interest and enthusiasm.

“We encourage them, if they want to be engineers,” Ibanez said. “We need a future generation.”

In the afternoon, the event opened to the greater public, with the same booths and two tours of the Grayson Power Plant. Utility staff was on hand to share expertise and answer questions.

Annelies Kischkel, 82 and first-time attendee, said she was particularly excited to tour the power plant.

“I’m surprised how big of a place this is,” said Kischkel, who has lived in Glendale for 36 years.

Three gas turbines and five steam turbines provide the city’s power, with some of the equipment dating back to the 1940s, said operations supervisor Steve Cameron, who helped lead the tour.

To address issues related to the aging equipment, GWP officials want to demolish most of the existing plant and repower it, according to Haroutunian.

A GWP team is currently evaluating repowering proposals. They’re expected to come before Glendale City Council at the end of November, she said.

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