Heading to Griffith Park through an equestrian tunnel under the Ventura (134) Freeway, horse riders emerge to see an unusual sight: huge yellow earth movers chomping into 15 acres of dirt between the freeway and the park.
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is deep into building underground reservoirs that will hold 110 million gallons of water and help eliminate the city’s reliance on open-air reservoirs, including Silver Lake. When complete, the two side-by-side Headworks reservoirs will be hidden beneath an open-space recreation area along Forest Lawn Drive near the intersection with Zoo Drive.
The $230-million project was set in motion by federal regulations several years ago requiring upgraded open-air reservoirs, said Marty Adams, DWP’s director of water operations.
The laws call for reservoirs to be covered, replaced, or to have additional filtration systems built on-site, he said.
The 2007 discovery in Silver Lake Reservoir of bromate — a contaminant formed by the combination of sunlight, chlorine and the naturally-occurring mineral bromide — exacerbated the effort to enhance drinking water safety, Adams said.
DWP’s water supply is currently in compliance with state and federal regulations, he said, “but as the standards get tighter, [the Headworks reservoirs] project will keep our drinking water in compliance.”
The construction of Headworks and the installation of a large pipeline through Griffith Park are scheduled to be completed in 2017. The new park will open in 2018.
The locals most familiar with Headworks are equestrians in the Burbank and Glendale Rancho neighborhoods who use tunnels underneath the 134 Freeway to get to Griffith Park trails.
On Monday, Sharon Tydell walked her horse, a Morgan named Angel, through tunnel No. 7 out of concern that a machine operating only a few feet away might frighten the horse.
“She was OK,” Tydell said. “But with the machine right there, it can be scary.”
Tydell’s friend, Jan Maurer, was riding a Missouri Fox Trotter named Phenoux. She said Rancho-area horses have become accustomed to the clatter.
“I haven’t seen any problems,” she said.
Though Silver Lake is in the hills, Adams said the Burbank site is at a higher elevation, so the force of gravity will push the water at times of peak demand around Griffith Park toward customers in downtown and East Los Angeles.
When the project is complete, Silver Lake and the adjacent Ivanhoe reservoir will no longer be used for drinking water or backup supplies. Adams said they likely will be used for recycled water or storm water runoff.