For perhaps the first time in its 113-year history, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has dedicated a press release to debunking the “bizarre theories” laid out in a Fox News story Thursday criticizing the department’s water conservation efforts.
The entire story, according to LADWP, was totally wrong.
Last week, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti oversaw the deployment of 4-inch black balls into the Los Angeles Reservoir, bringing the total to 96 million. The balls are meant to protect the city’s 3.3 billion-gallon reservoir from evaporation as the region copes with a historic drought. On Thursday, Fox News published a story calling the method a “potential disaster.”
Fox News cited “experts,” none of whom worked in or had any clear knowledge of water utility systems, who said the black balls would do more harm than good. LADWP hit back the same day, calling the accusations “wrong, invalid and based on uninformed opinions.”
Marty Adams, Senior Assistant General Manager of the Water System, was blunt and called the Fox story “nonsense.”
“These ‘doom and gloom’ theories are nonsense, and quite frankly, flat out wrong,” Adams said in the statement. “LADWP’s water quality strategies and investments in our water infrastructure all ensure that we serve the highest quality, most reliable drinking to our customers.”
Fox News cited Matt McLeod, founder of a biotech firm called Modern Moon Farm, who said that the nation’s largest water utility will create a “bacterial nightmare” because the black color of the balls will attract heat from the summer sun.
Nathan Krekula, a biologist and professor of health science at a Milwaukee college, also told Fox that black balls will heat up the water, creating a hospitable home for bacteria.
Actually, the balls are keeping the water cooler, LADWP says. The “carbon black” surface makes them more structurally and thermally sound, and the air inside the balls acts as insulation, preventing any heat transfer from the sun to the water.
“Furthermore, the reservoir’s size and depth and flow-thru operations are able to keep the water cool,” LADWP responded. “In fact, our staff has verified that the temperature of the water flowing out of LA Reservoir is half a degree cooler than the water that goes into it after filtration and UV disinfection.”
LADWP continued that it “vigorously” monitors and disinfects water and assures it is safe for customers.
The utility also pointed out that Fox’s assertion that the shade balls were more about compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Long-Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule than about water conservation was also false. Citing a risk assessment officer for a company called Total Bank Solutions, the Fox article claimed that the “real goal” for the balls was to avoid EPA fines.
“LADWP’s decision to use shade balls at Los Angeles Reservoir will help the utility comply with the US EPA’s Stage 2 Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts Rule (Stage 2 DBP Rule), and not the Long-Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule to which FOX incorrectly attributed the step,” LADWP stated.
LADWP has a totally separate project in the works to address the EPA rule Fox linked to the black balls to. It’s constructing an “Ultraviolet Disinfection Plant that will treat the water delivered from LA Reservoir for microscopic pathogens,” which is expected to be completed and online by November 2019.
Watch city officials and workers release the shade balls into the L.A. Reservoir here: