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A "Booming Economy" and the Local Water Supply

Andersen Design has been mixing casting slip at our present location since 1958. I have personally been mixing it for decades but I recently ran up against an unprecedented problem, which has persisted through three batches from three sources, the last being made from fresh raw materials, keeping adjustments for viscosity at a minimum.

When mixing clay slip the amount of water content is crucial. Our specific gravity target range is 176-180. The lowest We ever go is 171 and that is for small items only.

The viscosity, or fluidity of the slip has to be such that it easily pours in an out of the mold. I do not usually measure that because it is very apparent, The higher the viscosity the thicker the slip and the less flowing qualities it has. If the water content is within range but the viscosity is high, I add a deflocculant and that brings the viscosity down. This is the way it has been working for years until now when we are working on a small but potentially large wholesale order.

This time with every batch I made I am getting a very low specific gravity reading while the viscosity is somewhat like cake batter. The latest reading, is 150. That is a huge difference from 176-180. Just dumping in more defloculant is expensive and eventually stops working and at that point can even have the opposite effect.

After checking the accuracy of our scale,the only thing left which all three batches have in common is the water supply. We asked the town water department if any new additives have been added to the water and they said nothing has been added.

Every article that I come across, such as this one from NASA which mentions the effect of additives in the water supply on the slip making process, in the same breath also mentions effects from floods, droughts and industrial contamination:

Treatment of municipal water supplies to insure potability can mean variation in the amount and kind of ions, especially when the raw water changes with seasonal floods, droughts, or industrial waste contamination. The major waterborne ions affecting the degree of deflocculation of claybased slips are Ca2+ , Mg2+ , Fe 2+ , C1 - , and SO4= . Hardness is expressed in terms of CaCO 3 although this figure covers the sum of Ca2+ , Mg2+ , and Fe 2+ present, regardless of its original form. Very soft water contains as little as 15 ppm of hardness while a hard water carries 100-200 ppm. The alkalinity of water usually consists of calcium or magnesium bicarbonate. Softening of water with lime and soda ash introduces carbonate and hydroxyl ions. Sulfate may enter as alum used in clarifying water or from industrial sources while chloride may come from chlorine-treating or naturally occurring salts.?
The presence of calcium hardness in whatever form is reflected in increased deflocculant requirement of casting lips and reduced fluidity, even at maximum deflocculation.
Non-deflocculating- chloride and sulfate ions also increase deflocculant requirement and further reduce fluidity. Rate of cast and percent retained water are increased by the presence of alkaline earth chlorides and/or sulfates.  NASA, The Role of Water in Slipcasting
I was about to report this to the Boothbay Water Department again, when I came upon a 2016 report written by the water department, which claims that the drought, one of the conditions that the NASA paper sites as a cause, is good for business. The drought is good for business?  Is this for real? We have a drought and our local water supply's response is that it is good for business? Further more the water company's view of the great business season of 2016 contradicts everything I have heard at the retail street level, which is that the retail summer market, continues to be in recession as has been the case since 2002. Why asks retailers?They are the small guys in the wealth creating sector- the Water District's data for our booming economy is based on the wealth redistribution sectors of non-profit and government .

GENERAL In formulating the Boothbay Region Water District 2016 Budget, all normal operational activities have been funded including all salaries and related benefits, as negotiated January 2016 with Teamsters Local #340. The following summary is an outline and analysis of the 2016 budget as related to actual spending and the activities and goals of the district proposed by the management for fiscal year (FY) 2017.
Early in 2016 the Boothbay region began to experience drought conditions. Even though droughts are generally bad for crops and water reserves, the byproduct is an abundance of warm, sunny summer days. Coupled with the on-going drought the national and state economy was thriving, allowing tourists more discretionary income, which translated to a very successful and hectic tourist season. 2016 was an excellent year for revenue, setting an all-time high at $3,367,520.83. Much of the higher than expected earnings were derived by state, federal and private grant income totaling $217,988.96 with an additional $100,000.00 in revenue from a short-term line of credit from the First National Bank of Damariscotta and transfer from cash reserves of $388,661.13. In addition to the contributions to total revenue listed above, the economy seems to have been strong and the weather warmer than usual and extremely dry, creating the perfect conditions for a strong tourist season. In October, the district became the first non-profit water utility to take advantage of the Infrastructure Surcharge allowed by the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) which was enacted just before seasonal overage billing. With only one quarter of the year the district realized an addition $34,429.65 in revenue slated solely for the cost of newly constructed infrastructure. Boothbay Region Water District

It may seem to the executives at the water district that the many tourist we see at Hannaford have all kinds of discretionary money just waiting to be spent, but it seems to every one I talk to in the retail business that they don't.

The NASA report identifies drought, additives, and industrial contamination in the water supply as things which can affect the role of water in ceramic slip-casting. The Water Department lists those same things as great for revenue and the economy:

414.00 JOBBING REVENUE - Coupled with the strong tourist season the
construction industry was also experiencing a strong year with new construction or major rehabilitation to properties experienced district wide.
The district added over 40 new customers in 2016 which required billable hours by district staff to complete. The performance of this accounting line item exceeded 50% more than expected.
- MISCELLANEOUS - This accounting category added 600% more revenue to the
district than expected. Jobbing Revenue and Establishment of Service showed marked improvements due directly to a strong economy and new construction. As will be dealt with in IA EXPENSES, the district to a large extent overextended itself with regard to capital infrastructure investment requiring a $388,661.13 depletion of the district’s cash reserves and a year ending drawdown of $100,000.00 of a line-of-credit held by the First National Bank of Damariscotta. However, during the year, the district received an additional $217,988.96 in federal, state and private grants to support infrastructure installation and land acquisition, all of which contributed to the inflation of this accounting category. Boothbay Region Water District
Through out the report the alleged "improved economy" which is built on redistributed wealth and credit, continues to be emphasized. The section on materials and chemicals is no exception. The information cited above in the NASA report on the effects of drought and construction on the water supply is a non-issue. In fact lets build a new four lane highway, passing right by our water supply- its all about the money and that is all about the wealth redistribution and credit economy !

3. Materials and Supplies - With the improved economy and the increased demand of more tourists on the system overall, the district exceeded the budget expectation for materials and supplies by 12%. Two subsets within this budgetary category exceeded spending projections, those being Chemicals and M&S Transmission & Distribution.
a. Chemicals - Treatment chemicals ended the year approximately 24% over 2016 budget estimates. Much of this overage was a simple cause and effect due to 30% more summer demand for water due to the outstanding tourist season. In addition, because of persistent drought conditions, the district used more of its annual allocation for water from Knickerbocker Lake, withdrawing near its permit withdrawal limit to meet demand and preserve Adams Pond at a higher level going into the winter where Adams Pond is the only drinking water source for the Boothbay region. Knickerbocker Lake water quality is much less than that of Adams Pond due to development around the lake and within its watershed. Boothbay Region Water District 2017 Budget 4 Consequently, the water treated from Knickerbocker Lake requires more chemicals to treat to the high level of purity the district demands. Boothbay Region Water District
The report continues on- exclaiming about our hot and booming economy every step of the way. telling of increased construction and additives as a result of our allegedly booming economy and never a thought about the effects of construction and additives on the water supply itself. Since we are experiencing a drought again this season, I am guessing that the water supply we are drawing upon is Knickerbocker Lake which was stressed to the limit in 2016 and in response to that was being overdosed with additives. I can't speak to what effect that might have for human health concerns but I think the 2016 report from the Boothbay Water Department confirms my speculations about what is affecting our ability to produce a functioning casting slip. It looks like we will have to mix our next batch with bottled water. I will report back on if this solves our problem.

The 2015 Boothbay Comprehensive Report begins with an assessment of the 1998 Report. A survey done then concluded that protecting our groundwater supply was the top concern for all surveyed, Has that changed,?
A. 1989 Comprehensive Plan The Town’s 1989 Comprehensive Plan was developed by a volunteer Comprehensive Plan Committee. The plan is a mix of long-range planning considerations and very specific ordinance type proposals. As part of the planning process, the Committee conducted a survey of both year-round and seasonal residents with a very high rate of participation (a total of 651 surveys were completed with about 60% from year-round residents and 40% from seasonal residents). The results from the survey are included in the plan. The plan includes the following conclusions from the community survey:
  • “There is a remarkable degree of unanimity (lack of controversy) in the public opinion expressed in the survey. Both residents and non-residents felt strongly that the town should protect the groundwater from contamination (the most strongly held opinion).”


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