SENAA's Position on Snowbowl's Snow Making Alternative
In response to Arizona Daily Sun's article, "Tribes: New Snowmaking Plan No Better"

by Al Swilling, Founder
SENAA International
22 March 2010

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, and hospitals?

How about 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 changed.

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 approves it.

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 American Indian Religious Freedom Act, Section 3, as amended in 1994 (H.R. 4155).



Reprinted as an historical reference document under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law.