Plastic Balls Will Protect Reservoir from Cancer-Causing Substance

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Utility crews on Monday dumped the first batch of about three million plastic balls into Ivanhoe Reservoir in Silver Lake. KPCC's Frank Stoltze says the balls will help prevent the development of a cancer-causing chemical.

Frank Stoltze: The DWP drained the reservoir last year after sunshine combined with chemicals in the water to form a cancer-causing substance.

David Nahai: We're about to witness today an ingenious solution to a very peculiar problem. The problem is bromate, and the solution is three million black hollow plastic balls.

Stoltze: DWP General Manager David Nahai says the balls are four-inches in diameter and are normally used on the ground at Los Angeles International Airport to discourage birds from landing and interfering with planes. At the reservoir, the bird balls will float on the water and provide shade to prevent bromate production. L.A. City Councilman Tom LaBonge threw out the first ball.

Tom LaBonge: I got my hat here because it's a beautiful day, the blue water, and also I got my glove, so we're going to throw a few balls here. (laughing) OK?

["Four, three, two, one..." (whistle, sound of balls being released)]

Stoltze: Tens of thousands of balls cascaded down the reservoir's sloped walls and covered the water in tightly packed formations that looked a little bit like marbles bunched together. Pankaj Parekh is the DWP's Director for Water Quality Compliance. He says they've had to shut down some water well production to address the reservoir's problems. But hotter weather means greater demand for water.

Pankaj Parekh: So we are in a great hurry to finish covering it so we can open the wells, so as the demand rises, we can push ground water in addition to this water through here.

Stoltze: Parekh says Orange Products of Allentown, Pennsylvania is scrambling to produce a hundred thousand balls a day to meet the DWP's order for three million. He says the agency hopes to finish covering this seven acre reservoir in six weeks.