Whenever I'm back in Flagstaff, remind me to
not drink the water!
Cyndy Cole's article in the Arizona Daily
Sun, "Tribes: New Snowmaking Plan No Better", is really an
eye-opener to a heretofore hidden danger of visiting Flagstaff,
Arizona. It's clear, now, that the water served at local
restaurants and coming from the shower heads of the motel rooms
are to be avoided by anyone who values his or her health--and it
certainly isn't suitable for making artificial snow.
Maybe the way things are done in the Southwest
are different from
the Southeast. In the Southeast, waste water is purified as much
as possible, then it is released into the nearest waterway. Nature
finishes the job of purification. Chlorine kills fish, so it isn't
used in "reclaimed" water that is going into local rivers. "Reclaimed" waste water is
certainly not dumped into our potable water supply.
The very notion that it is possible for "part"
of an aquifer to be mixed with treated waste water, snowmelt, and
rainfall, without affecting the rest of the aquifer, as the
article suggests, is a
ridiculous concept. Anyone who has had grade school science knows
that, even in still water, the introduction of anything into a
container of water, even a single drop along one edge of the
container, is going to affect the entire body of water in short
order. The classic drop of food coloring into a glass of still
water demonstrates the effect very well. Aquifers are anything but
still water, so the effects would happen much quicker. If part of an
aquifer becomes polluted, then the entire aquifer is polluted, not
just the part where contamination occurs.
There is an old saying, "If you can't dazzle
them with brilliance, baffle them with b.s."
Never was that statement more fitting than in
the case of Flagstaff and Snowbowl's efforts to convince the
public at large, and concerned Indigenous Americans in particular,
that using treated sewage from a different location is somehow
more acceptable than using treated sewage from the originally
proposed source. The truth of the matter is that just because the
citizens of Flagstaff are drinking their own piss does not mean
that visitors to Snowbowl or to the city of Flagstaff want to, no
matter what form it takes or from which location it is taken.
Urine mixed with water is diluted urine.
Flagstaff and Snowbowl's presumption that
visitors to the city and ski resort have any desire to drink, bathe,
ski, or play in the combined urine of all its citizens in the form of tap
water or by ingestion or physical contact from playing in
artificial snow made from it seems extremely arrogant, to say the
least. With that apparent attitude, perhaps Flagstaff officials
and the Snowbowl staff should explain why their urine is so much
better and healthier than the urine of anyone else on the planet.
They also have failed to mention, consider, or
make any attempt to explain how they plan to test for and remove
any pharmaceuticals, antibiotics, and other toxins from their
glorified sewage to make it pure enough to drink without serious
short or long term adverse health consequences. That seems to be a
topic that is regularly (and purposely, perhaps?) ignored by Flagstaff
officials or Snowbowl staff, although opponents of
snowmaking have brought it up several times.
There are still other considerations that haven't
even been mentioned. How about the pesticides, herbicides,
industrial wastes, and various other toxic, radioactive, or
carcinogenic chemicals--many of which can be absorbed through
human skin--that are dumped into the sewage system by home owners,
gardeners, local businesses, local industries, doctors' offices,
toxins that are cumulative, such as arsenic and other heavy
metals? How are they extracted from the water, and how is the
treated waste water tested to determine the levels of each of
those potential hazards? Are there really such things as "safe
levels" of any of these contaminants? For example, arsenic in small
doses is not lethal, and a trace amount might be considered to be
"safe"; but arsenic is cumulative. Taken in small doses every
day, it accumulates in a victim's body. As the arsenic accumulates, health
problems begin to arise. Once the lethal level has accumulated,
the victim dies. Arsenic is just one of many such contaminants
that need to be considered.
Cyndy Cole states in her article that, "The
city of Flagstaff considers the well water, pumped from a depth of
1,500 feet, to be drinkable with only minimal treatment."
That may well be true. Well water alone is usually potable, and
if Flagstaff kept its well water separate from other
sources, it would be up to par with most of the Southeastern
cities' tap water, with very little, if any, treatment necessary.
In the very next sentence, Ms. Cole states
that, "The water in that part of the aquifer is a combination of
discharged treated wastewater, rainfall, and snowmelt. Flagstaff,
for reasons unknown, discharges into its own drinking water
"treated wastewater, rainfall and snowmelt." Why on earth would
anyone deliberately contaminate a source of potable water--and the
entire aquifer whence it came--with waste water, treated or not,
and the runoff from rain and melting snow? Not only is it the
height of stupidity, but it is also very costly in terms of
purifying the water and the potential of adverse health effects
for the residents of the area and anyone downstream who also
depends upon the
water from that same aquifer.
It seems that Flagstaff is, for some mysterious
reason that defies logic, deliberately contaminating the aquifer
water and rendering it less and less suitable for human
consumption. If Flagstaff stops discharging waste into the aquifer
today, the water might again be potable and safe to drink within a
few decades, depending on the kinds of pollutants the water
contains. If measures are not taken, then it won't be long before
that aquifer will be irretrievably ruined, if it isn't already.
Alas! Such is the nature of man, I suppose, who
has lost perspective of mankind's relationship with nature--those
who have no concept of how the circle of life works or the fact
that, in nature, everything affects everything else.
Flagstaff officials' actions and wanton
disregard for the health effects on area residents is reminiscent
of India and the Ganges River. At its source in the Himalayas, the
Ganges is pure water; but before it empties into the Bay of
Bengal, it is one of the filthiest waterways on earth. In spite of
its filth, Indians ritually bathe in the river and even drink the
water for ceremonial purposes with seemingly no ill effects. The
people have developed tolerance for the pollutants in the river.
If anyone from anywhere else in the world bathed in and drank from
the Ganges, they would surely die from one or more deadly diseases.
Perhaps Flagstaff's citizens and their contaminated water source
have a similar relationship. Maybe they have built up resistance
to the contaminants and toxins that are intentionally discharged
into their drinking water--or maybe Flagstaff's officials just
refuse to associate cancer rates and rising or unusual health
problems in the area with the diluted urine and other contaminants
that they are force feeding the citizens who elected them. Neither
tolerance nor ignorance makes the water any less polluted or any
less inappropriate for making artificial snow that will be blown
onto the sacred mountain, where its melting will affect every
living thing from the highest point of impact to the base of the
mountain, into the valley below, and for miles downstream.
Using any water that contains urine or other
contaminants desecrates anything holy that it touches. The
alternative snow making proposal is, therefore, every bit
as unacceptable as the original proposal. Nothing has really
There are just too many unanswered questions
and legitimate concerns, as well as potential for disaster for
artificial snow making to be a good idea.
SENAA is opposed to any snowmaking whatsoever
and see it as desecration of a sacred site and a violation of the
civil and human rights of Indigenous Americans to worship the
Creator according to their sincerely held spiritual beliefs.
Indigenous Americans would never go into a
Protestant or Catholic Church, Jewish Synagogue, or Muslim Mosque
and spray piss on their altars, icons, or pews. Not only would
that be wrong, it would be a violation of their rights and a
hateful, inexcusable act of vandalism; yet that is exactly what
the city of Flagstaff and the Snowbowl seek to do to our sacred
place of worship--our Church, our Synagogue, our Mosque. Catholic
priests would never use water from a toilet bowl or diluted urine
as holy water with which to bless church members or sacred areas
and objects. That, too, would be a desecration of what Catholics
hold as a sacred, integral part of their worship service; yet
Indigenous Americans are being forced by government agents to
allow a local government and a private enterprise to desecrate our
sacred place of worship and violate our rights in just such a
scenario. It is an unjust, illegal violation of our religious
rights, no matter which government agency or federal judge
It is a violation of the rights and religious
liberty of all Indigenous Americans, and of the First Nations of
that area in particular. SENAA will continue to oppose such
desecration, and we will continue to condemn the DOI and federal
government's approval of such actions as being blatant violations
of Civil and human rights and of our rights under the
Indian Religious Freedom Act, Section 3, as amended in 1994 (H.R.