The New York Times tells us that the Arizona Snowbowl will let loose with its snow made of treated sewage on Thanksgiving weekend. And, adding to its story a month ago chronicling 13 tribes' fight to keep their sacred ground free of frozen effluent, the newspaper recently highlighted the unknown potential dangers of using such a substance on any ground, sanctified or not.
"Now, apart from longstanding concern about harmful chemicals in the water that will be used to make that snow—piped directly from the sewage treatment system of the nearby town of Flagstaff—new research indicates that the wastewater system is a breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant genes," The New York Times reported on October 10.
The Times notes that the study in question, conducted by a team at Virginia Tech headed by Amy Pruden, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the school, has not been reviewed by scientific peers or published. But Pruden has been asked by Flagstaff officials to serve on a city advisory panel on the matter.
Such genes can inhibit the body's ability to fight off infection, the newspaper said. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are responsible for a surge in often-fatal infections, and as Pruden told the Times, it is not unheard-of to cut or scrape oneself while skiing. These genes were not found at the sewage plant but were detected in places like sprinkler heads, the Times reported.
“This means bacteria is growing in the distribution pipes,” Pruden told the newspaper. Analyzing the bacteria carrying the genes through the pipes would show whether such pathogens were found in the water and thus posed a danger, she said.
The New York Times and Pruden aren't the only ones doing a double-take at the use of what Gizmodo.com calls "poop snow" in a September 28 entry: "If Poltergeist taught us anything, it's that you shouldn't build a house on a Native American burial ground," the site writes in Poop Snow on an Ancient Burial Ground: This Can’t End Well. "Obviously the owners of Flagstaff's Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort have never seen that movie because they're literally about to shit all over one, by expanding onto 74 acres of sacred land in the San Francisco Peaks and manufacturing 100 percent of its snow from sewage."
Northern Arizona News reports that protests are still ongoing.