LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Using natural gas for the city fleet is ill-advised

Saturday, July 13, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

The 2005 Safe Drinking Water Act has an exemption that excuses natural gas fracking from the same water quality oversight as other industries.

The gas industry claims fracking is safe and that methane leaks and toxic chemical exposure experienced by property owners near the drilling sites are the result of natural causes.

If this is so, why does the industry need to hide behind their exemption to the Safe Drinking Water Act, a federal law that all other industries have to abide by? Shouldn’t they play by the same rules?

During the fracking process, a concrete cylinder is poured that is 1-inch thick and up to a mile deep. It holds the water combined with the chemicals. If the underground cylinder cracks, the concrete cannot be repaired, and the leaked chemicals cannot be cleaned up.

Does the driveway in front of your house have cracks? How old is it? How many years will 1-inch of concrete protect the water table from being contaminated with the known carcinogenic and neurotoxic chemicals that are used in fracking?

Because it has been told that natural gas is cleaner and greener, the city of Columbia is making a well-intentioned decision to invest in natural gas for some of the vehicles in its fleet and to even participate in an evolving nationwide service station system.

The irreversible damage that is occurring to the drinking water of property owners as a result of fracking should prompt us to reverse that decision.

Evan Prost lives in Columbia.

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Corey Parks July 13, 2013 | 7:10 a.m.

A similar conclusion could be made for the CFL. The govt pushed and pushed this and invented free CFL giveaways for years and spend 10's of millions of tax payer dollars and outlawed many incandescent bulbs. Only now that it comes to light that they are inferior and that if they would have just left everything as it was the free market would have decided that the LED was the bulb of choice in most applications and that the prices would be comparable to incandescence. The govt should stay out of energy and let the companies compete and come up with there products or fuel systems and that way cities and individuals can decided what dies and what succeeds. I for one would like more of a option.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 13, 2013 | 8:49 a.m.


Agreed. I am more than a little tired of this "one size fits all" philosophy*, whether applied to energy, education or any number of other situations. For example, we can and should use alternate sources of energy (wind, solar, hydro) where physical conditions favor our doing that, but not try to use them where they don't.

*-Aka "My (our) way or the highway!"

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams July 13, 2013 | 9:30 a.m.

Ellis/Corey: Agree.

And if I ever move from my existing home, my 3 gallon flush toilets are going with me.

In addition, I'm buying up all the 3 gallon flush toilets I can. It's a different sort of retirement plan...........

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 13, 2013 | 12:41 p.m.


If there's a ready market, and a buck to be made, we'll make those toilets any size (gallons) you and the rest of the public want.

National Institute of Ceramic Engineers (NICE)

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 13, 2013 | 2:03 p.m.


In ceramic industry parlance, toilets, urinals, bidets, bathtubs and sinks (if ceramic glazed metal ones) etc. are classed as "sanitary ware."

On the other hand, china or other ceramic plates, cups and serving pieces are grouped as "dinner ware." And there's also "glassware."

It sometimes occurs that, having made use of both the dinnerware and glassware (eating and drinking), a person might wish to excuse himself/herself in order to use the sanitary ware.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams July 13, 2013 | 3:48 p.m.

Ellis: My hobby is flintknapping; that means I make stone knives and arrowheads out of heat-treated chert/flint/volcanic glass (the latter not so much....I got tired of bleeding).

That means I even understand conchoidal fractures and how to control least I do with a moose antler or copper billet.

My first ever small arrowhead?

Made from a broken toilet.

Knappers call it "johnstone".

PS: 3 gallon flush tanks are now illegal, methinks. Because of gov't mandates, we now have to flush the smaller volume ones several times to get the job done. A perfect example of gov't preserving our world's fresh water.

PSS: I have a vein of near-white clay in the middle of my farm creek....a nearly vertical vein. It is close to a thin vein of poor coal. I collected about 5 gallons of the clay, suspended it in water, rough filtered it, and let it settle overnight. In the morning, there was a 1/16th inch of "crude oil" sitting on top. I also messed around with the clay, tried to make/fire something, and found I was no ceramic engineer.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 13, 2013 | 5:24 p.m.


So those toilets are illegal? How'd you like to buy a "hot" toilet, and I don't mean the incinerating kind? :)

Clays in your part of Missouri are often associated with coal seams. South of Fulton in Callaway County there's a large deposit of refractory bond clay (just east of US 54). A plant in Fulton uses a mix of this clay and calcined bauxite from China to make fired (~2,200F) refractory ceramic shapes to line rotary cement kilns, lime kilns and for roofs of electric arc steel-making furnaces. Business has been good.

Other refractory clays, called flint clays (due to shape and hardness), occur in Warren County and pockets south of the Missouri River (for example, Gasconade County). Mining activity today is a fraction of what it was in the 1950s and 1960s. At one time they shipped the poorest bond clay to Japan! I have NO idea what it was used for.

There are clays and shales in Missouri suitable for production of building bricks, but bricks sold there are typically made in Indiana, Nebraska or northern Kansas.

Are you sure you don't want a nice bas relief brick sculpture to grace your bathroom along with the 3 gallon toilet? An eagle might look nice. :)

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams July 13, 2013 | 5:36 p.m.

Like I said, it's a retirement plan.

Weird one, tho.

I'll sell you one for $2999.95 cheap, or two for $8000.00, but the price goes up once the citizenry gets tired of repeatedly pushing the flush button on those wimpy things our gov't insists upon. ;^)

PS: Makes sense clay is often in close proximity to coal...shallow water for the latter and, if memory serves, the former is heavily that has been eroded, transported, and redeposited in shallow seas? Did I get that right?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 14, 2013 | 7:07 a.m.


Your description of how the coal and clay originated is correct. The bond clay in this case isn't nearly as plastic in the raw (unfired) state as some non-refractory clays.

Speaking of flush toilets, which you were, I still, after 55 years, have fond memories of the old European variety (ceramic, of course). Many of the buildings had at least 10 foot ceilings (i.e.,the metric equivalent). The toilet was of course located at floor level. The water closet (tank) was located as close to the ceiling as possible (and still have access inside it by removing the lid). A L-O-N-G chain extending downward from the tank was pulled to actuate flushing.

I don't know how many gallons (liters, actually) constituted a single flush, but the force of the flush was impressive - especially if one were still seated on the toilet.

The actual volume of water was small; EPA take note.

(Report Comment)
frank christian July 14, 2013 | 3:05 p.m.

"And if I ever move from my existing home, my 3 gallon flush toilets are going with me."

I love my Glacier Bay toilets. They were $50. each and work perfectly every time with a little over a gallon of water.

One thing you may count on. You are going to leave your existing home and you ain't taking no terlits with you!

(Report Comment)

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