Indigenous Action Media | www.indigenousaction.org
FLAGSTAFF, AZ (San Francisco Peaks) — After a decade of legal battles and opposition from environmental groups, concerned citizens, and Indigenous Nations, Arizona Snowbowl ski area has started making fake snow from Flagstaff’s treated sewage effluent.
Surprise… it’s yellow!
“My parents always told me not to eat yellow snow, this is absolutely disgusting,” said Katie Nelson, longtime resident of Northern Arizona. “ Will parents tell their kids it’s OK to play in it? I used to be a skier and snowboarder, but I am boycotting Snowbowl because they obviously don’t care about my health or the environment.” stated Nelson.
Snowbowl is set to be the only ski area in the world to make snow from 100% treated sewage effluent. This action has raised serious concerns from community and environmental groups due to potential risks to human health and the sensitive mountain ecosystem.
“Snowbowl is clearly disregarding public health by not fulfilling their requirement to have signs posted that the fake snow is made from treated sewage and that it must not be consumed. I checked the entire area where kids ski and learn to ski and I could not find any warning signs.” stated Rudy Preston, former board member of the Flagstaff Activist Network. “There were none posted on the childrens ski lifts either,” he continued.
Although Snowbowl manager JR Murray has stated that treated sewage would be “…cleaner than the snow falling out of the sky” the yellow colored snow clearly indicates that something is wrong.
State law mandates that it is illegal for anyone to consume snow made from treated sewage effluent. Ingestion pathways include the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and skin. Additionally, any “direct reuse” cannot even have the “potential for ingestion.” While Snowmaking is considered legal, the “direct reuse” of this treated sewage effluent is in fact “skiing” and ADEQ is ignoring their own laws when it allowed Snowbowl to make snow (Arizona Administrative Code: R-18-9-704).
“Despite the obvious health risks, you would have thought that respect for our Indigenous brothers and sisters would have been enough to stop this project years ago, treated sewage for snowmaking is an absolute affront to Indigenous Nations that revere the Peaks as holy and I for one choose to respect their wishes and will no longer ski at Arizona Snowbowl.” stated Rudy Preston.
On November, 14, 2012 the Hopi Tribe filed a new lawsuit and for injunctive relief due to threats reclaimed water poses to an endangered plant that is found nowhere else in the world but on the Peaks. The Hopi Tribe requested an injunction to be placed on snowmaking activities until consultation was completed with both the US Fish and Wildlife and Department of Agriculture. The court has yet to issue a response.
The wastewater, which is treated to Flagstaff’s highest standard, has been proven to contain endocrine disrupting chemicals and now even anti-biotic resistant genes. Since the Environmental Protection Agency has no regulations addressing these contaminants in treated sewage, the Forest Service, City of Flagstaff, AZ Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), and Snowbowl continue to call it “clean enough to drink” although it would be illegal to do so.
ADEQ regulations allow A+ treated sewer water to contain fecal matter in three out of seven daily samples (R18-11-303 2a). In addition, according to Northern Arizona University biologist Dr. Paul Torrence, the treated sewage effluent may also contain antibiotics such as triclosan and triclocarban, which break down into bio-accumulating cancerous dioxins when exposed to sunlight.
For nearly a decade every environmental concern brought to the courts by Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Flagstaff Activist Network have been swept under the rug on filing technicalities and no court has ruled on the issues raised about direct reuse and ingestion. In another lawsuit by the Hopi challenging the legality of the City’s contract with Snowbowl, Judge Joe Lodge ruled that the tribe waited too long for the court to make a ruling on clear ADEQ environmental law violations.