Ski Resort Has Been Using Contaminated Sewage Water to Make Artificial Snow

Arizona Snowbowl, a resort in Flagstaff, Arizona, has resorted to the worst kind of commercialism seen in modern times. Since 2002, they’ve been using the city’s treated sewage effluent to make fake snow. Environmental groups, concerned citizens and the indigenous people of the region have been opposing this for years.

For the Hopi Tribe, the San Francisco Peaks, where the resort is located, are a spiritual and holy land. The tribe has been trying to get the city to stop selling its waste water to the resort for almost a decade. They recently got permission to file a lawsuit against Arizona Snowbowl in November 2012, due to the threats posed by the reclaimed water to an endangered plant found only on the Peaks. But it appears that the resort has turned a deaf ear to all protests.

According to a news report on Elite Daily, “Skiing is big business in Flagstaff. Resorts bring in about $35 million to the local economy during snow season. But since the climate has been changing, there isn’t enough snow.”


Photo: Katie Nelson and Rudy Preston/Indigenous Action

City officials seem to have joined hands with the resort, not wanting to take huge cut-backs in revenue. So they’ve actually been supplying Arizona Snowbowl with waste water to be converted into artificial snow. Although manager JR Murray claimed that the snow would be “cleaner than the snow falling out of the sky,” there’s no ignoring the fact that it sometimes ends up yellow in color.

Katie Nelson, a resident of Northern Arizona, said: “My parents always told me not to eat yellow snow, this is absolutely disgusting. Will parents tell their kids it’s okay 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.”


Photo: Katie Nelson and Rudy Preston/Indigenous Action

“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,” said Rudy Preston, a former member of the Flagstaff Activist Network. “I checked the entire area where kids ski and I could not find any warning signs. There were none posted on the children’s ski lifts either.”

Some protesters have retaliated by putting up their own signs, like – ‘Danger, Sh*tBowl. Health Hazard’.


Photo: Salty Peaks

Snowbowl is the only ski area in the world to make snow from 100 percent treated sewage effluent. Even though the wastewater is treated to Flagstaff’s highest standard, scientists have recently discovered traces of endocrine disrupting chemicals, anti-biotic resistant genes, prescription drugs and other substances usually found in human urine.

Since there are no regulations in place to address these contaminants in treated sewage, the City of Flagstaff and Snowbowl continue to insist that it is clean enough to drink. State law deems it illegal to consume snow made from treated sewage effluent, but snowmaking is still considered legal.


“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,” said Preston.

It’s disturbing to think that Snowbowl and the Flagstaff City consider revenue so important that they would be okay to spew gallons of human waste on a mountain that is sacred to some. Now, that’s just horrendous. Hopefully, the Hopi Tribe will win the lawsuit and things will get better soon.

Sources: Indigenous Action, Elite Daily

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