LA Reservoir Has a Bad Case of Black Balls

June 13, 2008


The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power dumped 400,000 little plastic black balls into the Ivanhoe reservoir this past Monday (June 9th). After reassuring local McDonalds owners that they hadn’t raided every Play Place within a ten mile radius for their 4 inch plastic balls, the DWP said that they were just a first batch of what would ultimately be 3 million balls dumped into the reservoir.

No, this isn’t the DWP’s idea of a really, really late April Fool’s Day prank. Nor is this the result of a bunch of bitter, disgruntled employees making a statement in a bid for higher wages or better benefits. To the best of my knowledge the LA DWP consists of a highly gruntled work force.

Rather, the black balls are intended to cover the more than 7 acres of surface area of the Ivanhoe reservoir to shield it from the sun. Sunlight can act as a catalyst to the bromide and chlorine in the reservoir, which can then produce the carcinogenic bromate.

Ok, so that’s your little science lesson for today. It’s my hope that the rest of your Friday will be much less educational, and I apologize if I’ve killed your TGIF buzz. Sometimes learning happens, even when we do our best to protect ourselves against it. You can never have enough protection—and that’s something I learned in college.


Right. Back to the black balls. Is anyone other than me a bit puzzled as to how it is the water in the reservoir has up to now been kept from producing this noxious chemical? I mean, has anyone at the DWP noticed that it’s sunny in LA, like, EVERY SINGLE DAY? Did they just up and decide to start pulling their weight on June 9th, 2008? “Hey guys, this water is making a horrible carcinogen, let’s go dip our balls in it!”

If this is the future of environmental protection, I’m afraid, very afraid. And, yes, I’m definitely going to grab my aqua socks and foam noodles and jump in that reservoir. Sunlight + dangerous chemicals = biggest play pit EVER.