Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights 2020

Monday, January 9, 2012

Ninth Circuit to decide fate of impacts on San Francisco Peaks

Jeneda Benally, Navajo, at San Francisco rally
now in San Francisco.
Photo by Dixie/Censored News.
Ninth Circuit Court to Decide Fate of
Human Health and Environmental Impacts
Indigenous-led Caravan to
Stop Contamination of Sacred Mountain in Arizona, Demand Safeguards for Health and Environmental Justice!

More than 100 Native Americans rallied on
Monday to defend San Francisco Peaks
at the federal court in San Francisco.
Photo Tony Gonzales/AIM West
Article by Save the Peaks
Censored News
SAN FRANCISCO -- On January 9th, 2012, the Save the Peaks Coalition et al vs. the US Forest Service will be heard by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, CA. Plaintiffs assert that under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, the Forest Service failed to adequately consider the impacts associated with ingestion of snow made from reclaimed sewer water in its federally mandated environmental review process.

The Save the Peaks Coalition is continuing a legal battle to protect human health from endocrine disruptors and pathogens found in treated sewage effluent, which an Arizona ski resort aims to use in its expansion plan.

In response to concerns raised by patients, a group of concerned emergency room and primary care physicians in Flagstaff, Arizona commissioned a preliminary study in December 2011 on the treated wastewater. According to Dr. Robin Silver, “We found antibiotic resistant genes in the reclaimed effluent that are associated with known infectious contaminants. These need further study because they are potentially dangerous.  We advise not using the effluent until these studies have been completed.”   

“In a 2005 study done by biologist Dr. Cathrine Propper, eggs were found inside the testicular tissue of fish. If this happens to the fish, what does this mean for my grandchildren and future generations?" asks Berta Benally, a grandmother traveling to California to witness the hearing.  “It is deplorable that the United States Forest Service would allow known endocrine disruptors to come into contact with our our children.  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.” 

The San Francisco Peaks are a unique ecological island of rare alpine that provides a habitat for threatened species, and is considered as central to the well-being and way of life of 13 Southwestern American Indian tribes.

With an outpouring of support from across the Southwest to the Pacific Northwest, California Indigenous communities, concerned parents, and environmentalists will join an Indigenous-led caravan from Arizona to rally for the protection of community health, future generations, and the ecological sanctity of the San Francisco Peaks.

“The Forest Service failed to adequately consider the impacts of potential human ingestion of snow made from reclaimed sewer water as required by applicable law”, says Howard Shanker, the Coalition’s lawyer.  “By approving treated sewage effluent for snow making without adequate analysis, the government essentially turns the ski area into a test facility with our children as the laboratory rats. That is unconscionable,” concludes Shanker. 

Mr. Shanker, a former congressional candidate in Arizona Congressional District 1, has represented a number of tribes and environmental organizations in prior litigation over Snowbowl’s proposed expansion and threatened use of treated sewage effluent.

“We are here because the lower court decision was wrong. We are hopeful that this will be a case where what the court determines to be legal is also right and morally defensible,” says Shanker.

In 2005, the Snowbowl Ski Resort and Coconino Forest Service’s expansion plan was approved for reclaimed sewage water from Flagstaff's Rio de Flag Sewage Plant for the use of snowmaking at the Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort. Since May 2011, owners of Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort laid seven miles of wastewater pipeline and clear-cut over 50 acres of rare alpine forest, while the issue is still being contested in court. Many tribal leaders have declared that these are all acts of desecration.

The Coalition will hold a press conference directly after the hearing on the courthouse steps at approximately 10:15 a.m.  A sunrise ceremony and march to the rally will take place prior.

Schedule of Events:
7:00 A.M. Sunrise Gathering and Ceremony at Yerba Buena Park, 4th & Howard, SF.
8:30 A.M. March from Yerba Buena Park to the James R. Browning US Courthouse - 9th Circuit; 95 Seventh Street; SF, CA.
9:00 A.M. Rally & Prayer Vigil until the press conference.
9:30 A.M. Court Hearing
10:15 A.M.* Press conference with the lawyer and litigants, directly after the hearing at the courthouse steps - 95 Seventh Street SF, CA  * approximate time
Photo opportunities at all events. Photos available upon request.

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