August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Monday, July 12, 2010

Save the Peaks Court Rescheduled for July 20, 2010

NEWS ADVISORY: 07/12/2010
Klee Benally

Save the Peaks District Court Arguments Rescheduled for July 20th

USDA admits that reclaimed wastewater is a racist and destructive water source

By Save the Peaks

PHOENIX -- An Arizona District Court has once again rescheduled oral arguments in the lawsuit challenging the proposed use of treated sewage effluent for snowmaking on the San Francisco Peaks located in northern Arizona. The oral arguments have been moved from July 16th and rescheduled to be heard at 1:00 PM (MST-AZ), Tuesday, July 20th, 2010 in the United States District Court in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Save the Peaks Coalition and other groups are continuing their call for support and will be rallying at the courthouse on June 20th at 11:00 AM and urging everyone to join them in the courtroom at 1:00 PM.

The case known as The Save the Peaks Coalition, et al. v. U.S. Forest Service (USFS) will be heard before Honorable Judge Mary H. Murguia. The suit asserts, among other things, that the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) prepared by the USFS ignores the possibility of human ingestion of snow made from treated sewage effluent. Snowbowl would be the only ski area in the world to use 100% wastewater to make snow. They would use 1.5 million gallons per day, storing and spraying this wastewater on a mountain that is holy to more than 13 Indigenous Nations.

"This case was filed because we insist that our children not be used as guinea pigs for the profit of a single private business operating on our public lands." Stated Jeneda Benally, a complaintant in the lawsuit. "The Forest Service already has admitted that there was no consideration of the impacts if children consumed wastewater snow that they acknowledge contains untreated contaminants. We will continue to work to protect the Peaks until our children, our environment, and Indigenous ways of life are no longer threatened by greedy business owners and misguided government agencies and politicians."

Arizona Department of Environmental Quality regulations allow A+ class treated sewer water to contain fecal matter in three out of seven daily samples (R18-11-303 2a). Moreover, studies done by Dr. Catherine Propper, Professor of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University, on this same treated sewer water have concluded the waste water contains pharmaceuticals, hormones, endocrine disruptors, industrial pollutants like pesticides and herbicides, and narcotics. David Norris, PhD, an integrative physiology professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, found that pharmaceutical ethinylestradiol made it through the Boulder, Colo. Wastewater Treatment Plant and into Boulder Creek and reported that native male fish in Boulder Creek decreased in numbers with respect to females and numerous intersex fish were found downstream of the wastewater treatment plant. He states, "the fish are a wake-up call, our bodies and those of the much more sensitive human fetus are being exposed everyday to a variety of chemicals that are capable of altering not only our development and physiology but that of future generations as well."

Additionally, according to biologist Dr. Paul Torrence the treated sewage effluent may also contain antibiotics, such as triclosan and triclocarban which can break down into bio-accumulating cancerous dioxins when exposed to the high altitude sunlight of the peaks. There have also been documented cases of treated sewage released into the Colorado river that have caused numerous outbreaks of norovirus among Grand Canyon rafters. Plaintiffs involved in this ongoing lawsuit have consistently insisted that the USFS take a hard look at what might happen to the people when they come in contact with or ingest snow made from treated sewage effluent. Under the National Environmental Policy Act, the USFS is obligated to consider these types of potential impacts on the quality of the human environment. In 2007 a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court found that the USFS failed to adequately consider the possibility of human ingestion of snow made from treated sewage effluent. In Judge William Fletcher's opinion, he concludes "the FEIS does not contain a reasonably thorough discussion of the risks posed by possible human ingestion of artificial snow made from treated sewage effluent, and does not articulate why such discussion is unnecessary." The holding of the three-judge panel was later overturned on a technicality by an en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit.
On July 2, 2010 the USDA granted Snowbowl ski resort permission for development including a choice to use either direct sourced treated sewer water for snowmaking or "recovered-reclaimed" water from a Flagstaff City water line. When the Flagstaff Water Commission pressed for a definition of what exactly "recovered-reclaimed" wastewater is at a recent meeting, a city employee admitted that this was actually Flagstaff's drinking water supply. If "recovered-reclaimed" water is approved by the Flagstaff City Council the federal government would offset additional costs with a tax payer loan of $11 million.

Howard Shanker, representing the Save the Peaks Coalition and additional plaintiffs, filed for a temporary restraining order to block the proposed development.

"Snowmaking with treated sewage effluent is a bad choice for the environment, public health and the sanctity of the Holy San Francisco Peaks." stated Moran Henn, an environmental scientist. "It's good that the USDA has finally recognized that fact but they cannot pretend that using "recovered-reclaimed" which is really Flagstaff's drinking water will be less offensive in a community where water is scarce, where water is life."

Volunteer supporters of the Save the Peaks Coalition are also proceeding with a prayer vigil and rally as planned for July 16th. They will use the opportunity to educate Phoenix residents about threats of untested and untreated pharmaceuticals, hormones and cancer causing agents in wastewater and possible impacts to the Holy San Francisco Peaks. The planned Flagstaff solidarity vigil will go on as scheduled on the 16th as well.

Additionally, we are urging Flagstaff residents to attend the July 29th Flagstaff City Water Commission's public hearing on whether or not Flagstaff's drinking water will be sold to Snowbowl instead of treated sewage. The hearing will be located at Flagstaff City Hall and volunteer supporters will set up a vigil in front of city hall at 4PM.

For a background, legal documents, photos, updates, and further information please visit:



Taking Action for Healthy Communities
Free dinner and discussion - 6:30PM - 9:30PM

At Serena Juste (Padilla) Residence
Onk Akimel O'odham Nation (Salt River)
9312 E. Thomas Rd. Scottsdale, AZ 85256

Camping available
Please RSVP at


Sunrise Prayer Gathering for Protection of Sacred Places
At Serena Juste (Padilla) Residence
Onk Akimel O'odham Nation (Salt River)
9312 E. Thomas Rd. Scottsdale, AZ 85256

NOON - Rally to Protect the Peaks
Wesley Bolin Memorial Park
1700 West Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ 85007

Solidarity Vigil
City Hall (RT. 66 & Humphries)


11:00AM - 2:00PM - Rally & Vigil
(Rally to continue outside for those who do not wish to enter courthouse)
Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. Courthouse
401 W. Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ 85003-2118

1:00PM - Courtroom Oral Arguments
Public is welcome! Bring picture ID

2:25PM - News Briefing with Lawyer Howard Shanker


4:00PM - Rally at Flagstaff City Hall Lawn
5:00PM - Flagstaff City Water Commission Public Hearing

More information:

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