Snowbowl’s Wastewater Snow Raises Health Concerns


The Hopi Tribe filed a lawsuit in August 2011 claiming the City of Flagstaff's contract to sell 1.5 million gallons of reclaimed wastewater per day to the Arizona Snowbowl to create artificial snow violates several Arizona laws that govern acceptable use of treated sewage effluent.

The ski resort is located 14 miles outside of Flagstaff on the San Francisco Peaks—sacred and holy land to at least 13 tribes in the Southwest.

But on February 9, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the efforts of the tribe, indigenous activists and environmentalists to halt the Snowbowl from making artificial snow out of human wastewater. The Snowbowl uses 100 percent wastewater to create its artificial snow—something that is not done anywhere else in the world.

Using treated wastewater not only strikes some people as repulsive, it raises serious health concerns. The snowmelt contains chemicals including endocrine disruptors, which can interfere with natural hormone levels and processes in humans and animals. "Negative impacts of endocrine disrupters include aberrant sexual development, behavioral and reproductive problems. Key species in the San Francisco Peaks ecosystem, such as frogs, are particularly susceptible to these harmful effects," states a Hopi Tribe press release.

“It is deplorable that the United States Forest Service would allow known endocrine disruptors to come into contact with our children,” said Berta Benally, a grandmother who traveled to California to witness a hearing before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in January. “At one point DDT, BPA and asbestos were all considered safe. Years later, after many people suffered, we now sadly know that they created a health hazard.”