We love hitting the slopes: the fresh air, the high speeds, the great outdoors – it’s fantastic. However, we’re not sure if we’d enjoy it as much if we knew that if we were to crash, we would be lying face down in recycled sewage. But news is this end could soon become a reality, as owners of a ski resort in Flagstaff, Arizona have plans to make artifical snow using 180 million gallons of ‘sewage effluent’.
The Snowbowl Ski Resortis found at 12,000 feet in the San Francisco Peaks. Its owners have sought snowmaking solutions in order to compensate for the snowfall fluctuations that occur in the arid desert state. They first came up with the idea in 1979, but unsurprisingly faced community uproar about the plan to create snow from human waste. Times have now changed.
In 2005, the Forest Serviceapproved a request from the ski resort in order to expand its operations and begin making fake snow. Why the U-turn after all this time? In order to create a “reliable and consistent operating season.”
The snow will be created from reclaimed water from the city of Flagstaff’s wastewater treatment plants. The ski resort is planning on building a pipeline in order to pump the water 15 miles uphill to a reservoir. From there, it will stay until the ski resort needs it.
During the off-ski season, the resort will them pump the wastewater into large fans where the water will become frozen droplets and snow.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the wastewater is completely safe for humans as long as it is treated. However that has not stopped the local community, Native Americans and even environmentalists oppose the plan due to health concerns. They state that a US Geological Survey has found that even “clean” wastewater “can contain a wide range of organic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, hormones, industrial pollutants, carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.
Work has already begun on the pipeline and if the Snowbowl starts its ‘poop snow’ plan, it will be the first resort in the world to use 100 percent wastewater to do. However, this has not stopped critics from saying the plan is flawed due to the lack of understanding about the long-term impact.
“When you put these substances into a delicate alpine environment like the Peaks, there are going to be big impacts to amphibians, other animals and the soil,” said Andy Bessler, an environmental justice organizer for the Sierra Club based in Flagstaff.
Native American tribes also oppose the plans saying the Peaks sacred ground and to use effulent would sully their holy ground. They have a point – even the Forest Service, who have approved the plan, think so. In a statement, they said:
“The Forest Service acknowledges the tribal perspective of the effects of ‘scarring’ on the sacred landscape and that the associated spiritual and cultural impacts may in fact be considered irreversible in nature.” They also acknowledged that the use of reclaimed water for snow “could negatively impact the spiritual and medicinal purity of resident flora on the Peaks.”
“Dumping sewage effluent on Peaks amounts to “cultural genocide,” said 35-year-old Klee Benally, a Navajo who has spent half his life fighting for the Peaks. “Our identity is based on our relationship with these sacred places and this — having the source of our spiritual renewal become so contaminated and desecrated — is a direct threat to our survival.”
So – ingenious recycling in action and a sure-fire way to ski all season, or literally soiling the natural landscape for our own benefit?
+ The Snowbowl Ski Resort
via Mother Jones
Images arizonasnowbowl and Wet Napkin