Thursday, June 28, 2012

"Moab Native" and Moab Jim Debate the Moab Potash Conundrum

Close-up aerial view of the settling ponds at Potash, Utah - Click for larger image (

"Moab Native" and Moab Jim Debate the Moab Potash Conundrum

Near Moab, Utah, the Intrepid Potash Cane Creek Facility overlooks the Colorado River. With its in-situ mine and settling ponds resting so close to the river, I wondered about safety. If the earthen dams that impound so much brine were to fail, what environmental damage might ensue? In August 2009, I began writing about potash production near Moab and later regarding newly planned mines near Holbrook, Arizona.

With over two hundred thirty-five articles on this website, I am always happy to see a reader comment on my work. Before publishing, I always research my articles to the best of my ability. Even so, I enjoy constructive criticism and do my best to correct errors in fact. By putting my name on every article, I put my own integrity on the line every day.

Aerial view of the Intrepid Potash Cane Creek Facility near Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( was with a spirit of enthusiasm that I read a comment by one “Moab Native” regarding my August 21, 2009 article titled, “A Place Called Potash”. Although I did not agree with everything Moab Native wrote, until his final sentence I was encouraged by his thoughts. In his parting words, Moab Native elected to call me “ignorant”. Here are “Moab Native’s” comments, typos and all, followed by my responses to his supposed “facts”.

Moab Native – “There are actually numerous errors in this blog. Potash is not calcium carbonate, not potassium carbonate, but potassium chloride (KCl).”

Moab Jim – According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the definition of potash is “Various potassium compounds, chiefly crude potassium carbonate”. According to Wikipedia, “potash refers to potassium compounds and potassium-bearing materials, the most common being potassium chloride (KCl).” I cannot say which website is correct, but these two authoritative sources disagree on the chemical formula for potash.

Moab Native – “Also, the Moab facility does not produce "industrial grade fertilizer" that can spoil the Colorado, but farm grade fertilizer.”

Washed out and environmentally degraded creek bed creates a dead zone at the Intrepid Potash Cane Creek Facility near Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( Jim – According to the “Industrial Products” page on the Intrepid Potash website, the company sells eleven different industrial products. How many of these come from the Cane Creek Facility is not mentioned. On the Moab, Utah page of the same website, the only product listed is “Muriate of Potash”, an archaic or technical reference to potassium chloride (KCL). According to the same webpage, “The potash and salt are then dried, sorted, and processed into various agricultural, feed, and industrial products”.

Moab Native – Also, the reason the facility is categorized as low risk, is that NaCl and KCl are naturally occuring minerals in the Colorado river watershed.

Moab Jim – According the Salt Lake Tribune article titled, “Dam Safety in Utah”, the Moab Salt (now Intrepid Potash) Stockpile Dam has a “hazard level” of “significant”. That dam has a height of seventy feet, can retain up to 1200-acre-feet of brine and drains an area of three square miles. The safety rating of any facility is only as strong as its weakest link. Since the predecessors to Intrepid Potash completed the Stockpile Dam prior to the requirement for environmental impact statements (EIS), no one knows if local precipitation could fill, overtop or breach the stockpile dam.

Moab Native – “The actual amount of dissolved salts in the system at any given time is dependent upon the runoff up stream. If all of the ponds were to breach at one time (only an act of sabotage could cause this) the amount of salts introduced would still be negligible.”

Aerial close-up view of brine retention ponds closest to the Colorado River near Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( Jim – If the “Monkey Wrench Gang” were to ride again, breaching of some or all the retention ponds would be possible. Moab Native claims that even a catastrophic failure of all the dams would produce "negligible impact" on the Colorado River. In his comment, he produces no evidence to back his assertion.

Moab Native – In the more likely case of a single breach, the cause woud be excess precepitation. The precipitation would act to dissolve the KCl and NaCl to bring the event to a null introduction to the river. Also, to a common sense viewer, it can be seen that the ponds depths do not exceed 6".

Moab Jim – Moab Native's assumption that only precipitation could cause a single dam breach is disingenuous. If sabotage could breach all of the dams, could it not breach one or two? Without a cleansing rainstorm to help neutralize the salts, concentrated brine could easily reach the river. The Salt Lake City Tribune article shows retention dam heights of twelve feet. The Intrepid Potash website mentions that “400 acres of shallow evaporation ponds”, but gives no depths. I consider myself a “common sense viewer”, but only someone with access to the retention ponds would know that each twelve-foot high dam retains only six inches of brine.

Moab Native – Regarding seismic activity. The canyonlands region has never recorded any seismic activity (allowing the existence of arches). The reason for this is due to the plastic flow tendency of the 7000 foot thick salt deposits underfoot. The layer of potash mined has already been filled in with plastic flow.”

Aerial view of brine evaporation ponds at Potash, Utah - Click for larger image ( Jim – "Never" is a long time. When popular Wall Arch collapsed in August 2008, no one could say why. The USGS database shows that there is a 1.062% chance of a 5.0 or greater magnitude earthquake within 50 kilometers of Moab, Utah within the next 50 years. The largest recorded earthquake within 100 miles of Moab was a 5.3 Magnitude in 1988. Even if Moab Native’s theory of "plastic flow" is correct, an earthquake originating outside of the immediate area could still affect the facility. Although excess precipitation or sabotage is more likely than an earthquake, there is no EIS to tell us what the various dams could withstand.

Moab Native – Regarding state inspection: inspections are conducted on a regular basis by the state. This includes runoff water testing and inspection of all the liquid holding earthen damns.

Moab Jim – The state may be conducting inspections of the ongoing operations at the Cane Creek Facility, but that does not mean that the facility is benign. Since the current retention ponds went into operation in 1970, they were and are exempt from ongoing environmental scrutiny. In the event of a future disaster, Intrepid Potash would surely use the “Moab Native” defense. I can hear them saying, “We did everything that we were required to do by law. If the dams broke, it was an Act of God” The term, “Act of God” is an insurance industry invention. It means, “We are not responsible for this disaster, God is”.

Moab Native – “Because ignorance is not bliss, ignorance is just ignorance.”

Aerial view or widespread environmental damage upstream from the Intrepid Potash Stockpile Dam near Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( Jim – Ignorance is a state of being uninformed (lack of knowledge). If any one of us has knowledge that others may require, it is our duty to share that knowledge. Having learned several new facts from Moab Native, I thank him and share his thoughts here. I agree that ignorance is not bliss. However, denigrating and denying the research and reporting of others can lead to a self-imposed, ignorant form of bliss known as self-righteousness.

Regardless of whether any dams at Potash break or not, a drive through the Cane Creek Facility is an environmental revelation. In recent years, Intrepid Potash has taken many environmental shortcuts, including uncontrolled flooding from the in-situ mining sites to their retention ponds. The only life that can survive in such a degraded environment is bacteria. Just because it is technically legal to inundate natural creek beds within the facility does not make it right. If state or federal regulators conducted an independent EIS at the Cane Creek Facility today, major changes in environmental management would surely be required.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Costantino Proietto Paints the Timeless Glory of Rome

Signature of Costantino Proietto appears as "C.Proietto" on canvas - Click for larger image (

Costantino Proietto Paints the Timeless Glory of Rome

In April 2012, Kelli Malone of Lindale, Texas wrote to me about an oil painting that she had recently purchased at a garage sale in her area. Kelli wrote, “East Texas has many flea markets, garage sales and trades days, which I love to attend. My husband and I were out one Saturday, looking for unique things that people have to sell. It was getting late, but I convinced my husband that we should stop at one more garage sale.

I spotted the painting right off and just loved it. It was not a typical oil painting but had texture and a beautiful scene of buildings alongside the water. I purchased the painting and then found your website while researching the artist, C.Proietto. I would appreciate any information you can give me about the painting, including if it is an original C.Proietto.”
A timeless Roman scene by C.Proietto includes the Tiber River, the Castel Sant'Angelo, Ponte Sant'Angelo and Saint Peter's Basilica - Click for larger mage ( to Nunzio LoCastro, the first cousin of Costantino Proietto, the artist was prolific. On his business card, he listed his German title as “Kunstmaler”, which translates into English as “production painter”. While stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army between 1951 and 1953, LoCastro regularly visited his Cousin “Tino” in Stuttgart.

Nunzio LoCastro tells us that Tino Proietto could finish a small painting in a day, while it might take two days to complete a larger work. After an eighteen-year, unpaid apprenticeship to an art restoration specialist in Randazzo, Sicily, Costantino Proietto settled in Germany before World War II. By the early 1950s, Tino had both an apartment and a separate atelier, where he painted. He produced paintings of “what people wanted to buy”, which included landscapes of well-known Italian and Swiss scenes.

Until Easter each year, Costantino Proietto painted six or seven days each week. In the early days, he would then load up his automobile and peddle unframed paintings to individuals and galleries throughout Germany. After his spring sales trip, Costantino would again paint daily until fall. He would then repeat the mobile sales process, with much of his fall collection sold to holiday shoppers.

The dome of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican Square appears to glow as if lit from within - Click for larger image ( the 1940’s until the 1970’s, Tino Proietto kept up that pace. By the 1960’s, he joined exhibitions of framed art at various Allied military bases throughout West Germany. Although he died in 1979, Costantino Proietto continued to paint until at least the mid 1970’s. If C.Proietto painted only 100 pictures each year for forty years, that would bring his total to 4000 original oil paintings. My guess is that 4000 paintings would be a minimum, with the possible number of C.Proietto works at least twice that high.

The artist, who did not care about fame, priced his works within the reach of soldiers and citizens. According to Nunzio LoCastro, Cousin Tino was an energetic and dedicated artist who regretted nothing in his life. With each newly discovered C.Proietto painting, we learn more about the artist and the pleasure that he brought to so many people around the world.
18th century Flemish sculptor Pieter Verschaffelt's Archangel Michael stands atop the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome, Italy - Click for larger image ( order to authenticate the Malone C.Proietto painting, I looked first at the signature. As is characteristic with all known C.Proietto paintings, he used a palette knife to execute his signature. Note the strong horizontal lines on the letter “C”. The “dot” is in line with the finishing stroke of the “C”. The “P” is larger than the “C”. The lower horizontal line within the “P” appears as an oval. The “i” is un-dotted. The crossing of the “tt” becomes an upward-rising slash. The bottoms of the letters in “Proietto” form a near-perfect horizontal line. Since these signature characteristics appear in all authentic C.Proietto paintings, I felt certain that the painting was genuine.

The content and style of the Malone C.Proietto are consistent with the artist’s other known works. The scene features both water and sky. It also contains strong architectural elements in the middle ground and background. The aspect ratio of the painting is similar to standard 35-mm photographic film. Using photographic prints as models C.Proietto almost always painted in his studio. If you observe the basilica and its outbuildings, you will see a masterful use of texture, color and form.

Backlit by incandescent light, St. Peter's Basilica and the Ponte Sant'Angelo transform into a night scene which appears lighted from within - Click for larger image ( of its authenticity, I offered to purchase the painting from Kelli Malone. In mid-June, a UPS parcel containing my new C.Proietto masterpiece arrived. The only obvious flaws on the painted surface were a chip of missing paint below the bridge and some cracks in the painted sky. According to Nunzio LoCastro, the painter was a chain-smoker. To accelerate aging of his works and perhaps anticipating later smoke damage, Tino Proietto often mixed his cigarette ashes into the paints on his palate. This pre-aging appears around the Archangel Michael atop the castle.

Not recognizing the scene in the painting, I displayed it for guests at a recent dinner party. One individual immediately recognized the scene. In the foreground is the Tiber River, in Rome, Italy. The bridge is the Ponte Sant’Angelo, once the Aelian Bridge, completed in 134 AD, by the Emperor Hadrian. On the right bank of the river is the Mausoleum of Hadrian, completed in 139 AD, one year after the death of Hadrian, himself. Today, the imposing structure is the Castel Sant’Angelo, featuring a statue of the Archangel Michael by the 18th century Flemish sculptor Pieter Verschaffelt atop its ramparts. From the fourteenth century onward, various popes used the mausoleum as a fortress and castle. In the background of the painting is a timeless image of the grand dome of Basilica San Pietro, in Vatican City.

Bathed in celestial light, Archangel Michael unsheathes his sword in a symbol of protection for all of Rome - Click for larger image ( Proietto painted in a Stuttgart studio that featured large windows and northern light. As he painted, light would shine through the canvas from behind. Depending on the effect that the artist desired, he would leave some portions of the canvas almost free of paint. This technique allowed more or less light to shine through from behind.

Hoping to discover what Costantino Proietto intended while painting this iconic Roman scene, I placed a lamp behind the picture. Utilizing my crude backlighting technique, the original afternoon scene turned to dusk. The current of the Tiber River reflected back to me in fading light. Horizontal lines on the buildings and the bridge glowed, as if lit from within. Reflecting his genius as a master of the palate knife, alternate images may appear on a single C.Proietto canvas.

Many thanks to Kelli Malone for helping to advance our knowledge of twentieth century impressionist master,Costantino Proietto.