On June 21, Suburban Water Systems (Suburban) broke ground on the largest capital project in its history, which is a four-year, $24 million reservoir replacement project in Whittier, California. The Plant 224 project will replace a single, 5-million gallon concrete gunite, covered earthern reservoir built in 1953 with two smaller, cast-in-place concrete reservoirs; one with a capacity of 4.7 million gallons and the other with a capacity of 2.4 million gallons. The plant is the major source of water for 24,500 connections located in the City of Whittier, La Mirada and unincorporated Los Angeles County.

Grading and fencing on the site are nearly complete, and construction of the plant’s pump station has just begun. The pump station is scheduled to be completed in 2013, with construction of the first reservoir taking place in 2014 and 2015, and construction of the second reservoir taking place in 2015 and 2016.

Plant 224 is in a unique location. Since its construction 60 years ago, the city has built around the plant, which is now sandwiched between Friendly Hills, a residential development of upscale homes, a country club and private golf course on the north and Whittwood Town Center, a 65-acre development of retailers, specialty shops, restaurants and upscale condominiums to the south.

Suburban has partnered with neighboring California Domestic Water Company (California Domestic), a small mutual water company that wholesales to Suburban and the cities of Brea and La Habra, to exchange land. Suburban will construct new facilities on the neighboring property while keeping critical facilities operating. Once the replacement plant is operational, California Domestic will redevelop Suburban’s former plant site. This partnership is just one example of cooperation required to deliver such a complex project.

The Whittier Planning Commission and City Council required the exterior design of the plant to match the art deco style of California Domestic’s office, which was constructed in 1934, recently restored and nominated for the California 2013 Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation.

“We had to meet some strict design requirements, but the result will be a beautiful facility that blends in well with the residential and commercial neighborhoods,” said Craig Gott, Suburban’s Vice President Engineering. “This reinvestment in infrastructure will ensure that Suburban can continue to provide customers with a reliable, safe and abundant supply of water for the next century.”

Nearly three dozen people attended the groundbreaking, including Whittier’s mayor, councilmembers, city staff, Chamber of Commerce representatives, plant construction contractors and representatives from California Domestic.

“For many of us, this has been a long time coming,” said Suburban Managing Director Keith Fischer. “We would not be standing here today and breaking ground were it not for the support of so many who are present today.”

“The City of Whittier is proud to partner with Suburban on bringing this vital resource to the community,” said Whittier Mayor Bob Henderson. “This site will help ensure quality water for future generations of east Whittier residents and help meet the growing water supply demands from the larger, surrounding areas.“

Suburban has installed an on-site webcam that shows views of the construction site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with photos updated every 30 minutes. Images, including time-lapse images recording progress on the site, can be viewed online at http://southwest.workzonecam.com/southwest.

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