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Ivanhoe Reservoir is almost half full of the bird balls of doom now. Not as dramatic as the DWP and cb throwing them around like a game, but dramatic and scary nonetheless.

I notice Marty Adams, “some kind of scientist,” “explained” them in CSSLR the other day. (I started calling him “some kind of scientist” because LaBonge’s office referred to him as that, but as things get more serious to the community, if not to the dwp, I’m going to drop that. He is really an engineer, (or was), and PR person for the LA dwp. He’s also a good friend of LaBonge.)

Ivanhoe half full of balls
Click for better view. The white line is the dividing rope between the good and the bad. I love the red T painted on the tree – that might explain the bad trim job on this mature tree, as too often happens by the dwp unskilled tree hackers.

CSSLR titles Marty Adams letter to them: Bird Balls on Ivanhoe Reservoir are Non-Toxic — Questions About Ivanhoe, Bird Ball Safety, and DWP’s Intentions. Marty writes:

Many of you recall correctly that DWP agreed years ago not to cover Ivanhoe Reservoir. Has that changed and are the bird balls permanent? Absolutely not. As has been reiterated over the past few months, the bird balls do not and cannot meet the new federal regulations that are causing DWP to construct a new reservoir at Headworks and take Silver Lake and Ivanhoe out of service…

Some have asked “Why is Silver Lake okay to leave uncovered?” Practically speaking, it is impossible to cover Silver Lake Reservoir… The uncovered Silver Lake can be managed and is okay to use for these peak demands…

Perhaps the greatest misinformation I have recently seen is the notion that the bird balls heat up and release toxic chemicals into the water. This is just simply not true. Granted, there are many different types of plastics and recent news has focused on certain plastics leaching chemicals. The reason DWP is using the bird balls is because they are the ONLY National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) drinking-water-approved product of its kind on the market…

As a matter of fact, other water agencies have contacted DWP out of recognition that this solution could have application for them as well…

The balls are made to survive in a hot, sunlight environment without breaking down, and they are warranted for 10 years – twice the lifetime we are looking for…

Please visit the CSSLR website for his full letter. I’m not going to go into my ideas about the CSSLR right now – and why Mr. Adams writes them personal heartfelt letters – but anyone using them as a media source should think carefully.

Black balls pollute Ivanhoe
Not sure if you can see how lumpy and ugly the balls are. No reflections at night on that side of the reservoir. Also notice the delightful landscaping of carefully placed rocks, (although someone apparently got tired of carrying some of them), our own Silver Lake Stonehenge. Been there for a few months now.

My reply to Marty’s points:

1. He’s right, the bird balls don’t meet federal regulations. And so that’s a good idea to use them for the next 5 years?

2. So Silver Lake has NO bird balls, and it’s still okay! That’s good to know…so why are we producing these tons of plastic again? Why is Ivanhoe so lucky to get them?

3. Marty, Marty, Marty. As I said, you are no longer, “some kind of scientist,” but director of the dwp’s Water Quality and Operations (PR person). We had a good conversation, and you went into a lot of detail. Still, for your opinion on toxic chemicals to hold water?…not going to happen. Yes, you’re right, many plastics leach chemicals, INCLUDING many water bottles, which is why you aren’t supposed to leave them in the sun, Sparklett’s corporate office told me.

4. Ahem. The reason these bird balls are the ONLY NSF approved ones, is because they are the ONLY bird balls in the country! I could not find a single other manufacturer.

5. Just because you jumped off a cliff doesn’t mean the other water agencies should do it, too…but yes, they are looking at this issue, and I know this because so many of them come to my blog.

6. Here’s where the lies come in. I didn’t want to be hasty, so I called Cheryl Luptowski at NSF again, and spoke to her on Monday, just to make sure I didn’t miss anything the first time. The balls have not been tested for 10 years, or 10 months, or for longevity at all. And they are NOT made to survive in a hot sunlight environment; the test they passed is only for 73.4 degrees.

closeup of bird ball striations
Ridges of bird balls in the water.

I was surprised and delighted that the well-regarded Aquafornia wrote about me, in a comment on Water SISWEB:

This blogger says they have only been tested at about 73 degrees – not hot enough for the temps we get down here.

And as I wrote a month ago:

Even better – NSF tests only the qualities the manufacturer asks them to! Does this astonish anyone else? Also: if the product fails any test, it’s completely confidential, and only the manufacturer knows the results of those tests!

Ken at Orange Products told me it took them 6 to 8 months of trying for NSF to pass them on even these limited terms. I’m sure it cost Orange a hella lot of money. And I feel bad that I’m speaking up about this small company, putting their hearts and soul into all their bouncy balls. And I’m sure they did their best.

But let’s be honest here, dwp; this is our drinking water! Want more proof? Take a look at the actual Press Release that NSF released:

Under NSF/ANSI Standard 61, the vapor control balls are exposed to three different test waters with varying pH levels for seventeen days.[my bold]

Samples of the test waters are then analyzed for a wide variety of contaminants, including metals and organic compounds, to ensure no contaminants were introduced at levels that would be considered a health concern.

I absolutely believe what NSF says; their reputation as a lab is everything. These bird balls are only guaranteed for: 17 days, not 10 years! And note that there is no temperature at all in this release. Because it hasn’t been tested (or failed) at higher or colder temperatures.

It’s the black paint on the balls that keeps the HDPE in the plastic stabilized, so it won’t leach (hopefully.) Someone smarter than I, who knows more about water than I do asked me (Aqua Maven, at Aquafornia!): What happens when the sun bleaches the balls out?


Mr. Adams, you seemed like a pleasant, forthright person when we talked a few weeks ago. I’m going to assume that what you wrote in your letter to the CSSLR was some kind of typo, or perhaps a misunderstanding. Blogs are great this way: if you correct what you wrote about the bird balls, I will immediately change this post to reflect that you corrected this. Let’s all get along.

How to reach the LA DWP to complain about anything you feel like:

(213) 367-1361 No busy signal! Real person answers.
email: joseph.ramallo@DWP.com

One Response to “LA DWP lies about the bird ball tests for Silver Lake.”

  1. bob says:

    Given the recent addition of more shade balls to LA reservoirs, I’m curious if the water at Ivanhoe and other sites has been analyzed. Also, have there been any environmental impact assessments?