Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

March 9, 2012

Save the Peaks files federal petition to protect San Francisco Peaks March 9, 2012

March 9, 2012          
Contact: Howard Shanker (480) 838-9300
By Save the Peaks
Censored News

Save the Peaks Coalition et al. File Petition for Ninth Circuit Rehearing en banc.
Plaintiffs Insist Health Hazards of Ingestion of 'Sewage Snow' on San Francisco Peaks Not Adequately Addressed by US Forest Service.
In a petition filed Friday, March 9, 2012 individual citizens and Save the Peaks Coalition volunteers are asking for adequate consideration of human health concerns by the US Forest Service in the use of reclaimed sewer water to make snow. The case asserts that under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) 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 adequacy of the federal government’s consideration of this “ingestion” issue before approving the use of reclaimed sewer water to make snow at the Snowbowl ski area was actually considered twice by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The first time, the court ruled that the Forest Service failed to consider the impacts associated with people ingesting snow made from reclaimed sewer water.   The second time, based on the same facts and same law, a panel of three different judges recently rendered a decision that was completely contrary to the first decision. 
According to Howard Shanker, the attorney for the Save the Peaks Coalition and formerly the attorney for a number of Indian Tribes and environmental organizations on this issue, “The Save the Peaks Coalition filed a petition for rehearing to ask the Ninth Circuit to reconsider this case – in light of the myriad conflicts and inconsistencies the latest panel decision has with Ninth Circuit precedent.  The fact, however, that we can have two panels of the Ninth Circuit issue completely contradictory rulings based on the same law and the same facts, does not say much for our current system of justice.  The fact that the federal government is championing the use of reclaimed sewer water, despite the potential risks to public health and safety, on a site that is sacred and holy to 13 of the tribes in the southwestern United States does not say much for the federal government’s values and priorities.”
“Unfortunately for all of us who love spending time on the top of our highest Arizona mountain, potential risks to our human and environmental health have been overlooked by the US Forest Service.”  states Rachel Tso, plaintiff and Save the Peaks Coalition volunteer.  “We filed this suit to seek to remedy this, and we continue to strive to have these issues adequately addressed.   I believe if the full court can have the opportunity to consider the full merits of the case they will affirm that the request of further investigation is reasonable.”
Plaintiff Don Fanning  adds "Our lawyer has handled the case entirely pro bono. This litigation is about human and environmental health--- not money. However, in pursuing procedural issues, the court has all but ignored the likelihood of people falling in reclaimed sewer snow and swallowing it or children deliberately eating it. USFS documents list only some of the known chemicals or pathogens in treated sewer water without understanding or presenting means of mitigating their long term effects. It is my right and my duty as an informed citizen to use all available legal recourses to protect my family and others from what amounts to an experiment by the USFS on ill-informed human beings."
Rachel Tso concluded with, “I am concerned for the children and families who could come in contact with the contaminants in this frozen treated effluent in ways never before experienced in the world.  I’m also particularly troubled about the Snow Bowl employees who will have prolonged exposure to it.  We do not know if there will be any effects, but I believe our forest service owes it to all of us to adequately consider it before giving a corporation carte blanche to do what they want on our public lands.”

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