Saturday, October 22, 2016

East L.A. water company seeks to improve facilities and customer relations

East L.A.

What’s a water pumping station ribbon cutting ceremony without tacos | C.J. Salgado

By C.J. Salgado

EAST LOS ANGELES — Usually the installation of new water pumps is not cause for a celebration. But this Wednesday a new renovated water pumping station in East L.A. was feted with a ribbon cutting ceremony, complete with tacos and tours. So, what’s the big deal? Well,  the $1.4 million project is the first major makeover to the hilltop pumping station, which features a million-gallon water tank, in decades. The ceremony is also a sign that California Water Service Company, which serves 150,000 people in East L.A., is taking steps to improve lackluster relations with its customers.

According to Dan Armendariz, Cal Water District Manager for East L.A., things “are changing,”  as to how the utility interacts with its customers. He encouraged neighbors to “come to the ceremony and learn about how they will benefit from the pump station.” The periodic community meetings that Cal Water has held in the past were usually poorly attended, if at all. This time around Cal Water invited some 200 neighbors, with a few dozen showing up. With rate hikes hitting customers, knowing what they are getting for their money makes sense.

This facility, atop a hill on North Rowan Avenue in East L.A., has been around for decades, though it typically goes unnoticed, despite having a huge water tank sitting on its lot. In fact, this author would trek up and down that hill many years ago on his way to a cousin’s house without ever really realizing it was there. Rick Shephard, a superintendent for Cal Water, conveyed that the facility hasn’t had a major upgrade like the one that has just been completed since the 1930s.

Besides the new water pumps, the facility also got new landscaping with drought-tolerant plants for water conservation and gravel walking paths. Light fixtures around the pump station building use state-of-the-art LED-type light bulbs that use very little electricity and have very long lifespans, optimized for energy efficiency. In addition, new radio and video based systems will monitor security and transmit vital operating data remotely.

As for the benefits to the community, Cal Water officially stated that the new pump station will help increase the amount of water previously produced, meet current and anticipated water needs, provide an emergency supply, and increase curb appeal.

Unofficially, though, the benefits from this event might be even more meaningful. With price hikes, drought conservation, and water quality issues, like manganese contamination, increased opportunities to get educated and informed, as well as provide input about the water system that serves the community, are certainly warranted. It’s a refreshing change from past practices. Now, throw in some delicious tacos with cool water and it’s all tasting so “muy bien!”

East L.A.

New landscaping and paths at pumping station | C.J. Salgado

C.J. Salgado is a resident of East Los Angeles

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