Experts: Los Angeles behaved stupidly with ‘black ball’ plan for water reservoir

Experts: Los Angeles behaved stupidly with ‘black ball’ plan for water reservoir
(Image: Video via TIME)

[Ed. – Anyone who’s driven a black car in the summer could predict what was wrong with this one.  And anyone who’s been awake for the last 30 years should have been able to suspect the EPA was lurking in the woodpile somewhere.]

The city made national headlines last week when Mayor Eric Garcetti and Department of Water officials dumped $34.5 million worth of the tiny, black plastic balls into the city’s 175-acre Van Norman Complex reservoir in the Sylmar section. Garcetti said the balls would create a surface layer that would block 300 million gallons from evaporating amid the state’s crippling drought and save taxpayers $250 million.

Experts differed over the best color for the tiny plastic balls, with one telling FoxNews.com they should have been white and another saying a chrome color would be optimal. But all agreed that the worst color for the job is the one LA chose.

“Black spheres resting in the hot sun will form a thermal blanket speeding evaporation as well as providing a huge amount of new surface area for the hot water to breed bacteria,” said Matt MacLeod, founder of the California biotech firm Modern Moon Farms. “Disaster. It’s going to be a bacterial nightmare.” …

Dennis Santiago, a risk analyst for Torrance-based Total Bank Solutions, suspects the real goal for the black-ball cover is to avoid steep Environmental Protection Agency fines. The federal agency’s “Long-Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule,” announced in 2006, would require public and private water utilities to spend billions to cover open-air reservoirs that hold treated water to prevent contamination. Officials in several districts around the nation have balked at the EPA mandate, notably in New York, where lawmakers are fighting to block a $1.6 billion concrete cover the EPA has ordered built over a Yonkers reservoir.

“This is not about evaporation,” Santiago said. “The water savings spin is purely political. What the black balls are really about is that [Los Angeles] needs to stay in-compliance with an EPA requirement to place a physical cover over potable water reservoirs.”

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