“I can’t believe that snow made from sewage effluent came out yellow!” said no one ever.
It was way back in 2011 when Care2 first reported on an Arizona ski resort’s announcement that they would manufacture snow from wastewater. Snowbowl Ski Resort in Flagstaff, Arizona is in the middle of desert, so it’s no surprise that it depends heavily on artificial snow making to stay in business. While I’m normally supportive of any attempt to reuse and recycle, this idea of making a snow angel in a pile of something someone once flushed down the toilet is gag-worthy.
Environmental advocates, including several Native American tribes, were aghast that the City of Flagstaff had agreed to to sell the resort 1.5 million gallons of wastewater per day. The Coconino National Forest’s environmental impact statement for the project contained a laundry list of potential problems: visible “scarring” of the local landscape, increased local noise levels from the snowmaking machines, the potential to change soil chemistry and moisture, and destruction of wildlife habitats. The Hopi Tribe objected on the basis that the grounds were sacred, and therefore should not be defiled with “soiled water.”
Then, last October, research out of Virginia Tech indicated that making snow with recycled sewage could turn the mountain into a breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant genes. Who wants to take a run down Super Bacteria Pass?!
Well despite the public protest, and against all common sense, Snowbowl forged ahead with its icky plan. When the ski season started, it fired up the snow making machines and proceeded to spray the slopes down with the recycled sewage. And what do you know? The stuff came out yellow.
The resort’s manager told the New York Times that the color was caused by “rusty residue in the new snow-making equipment” that’s piping the snow in from a nearby sewage treatment plant. Arizona’s environmental officials haven’t yet confirmed or denied that, and we all know what that means.
For now, the old adage about not eating (or touching) the yellow snow stands.
Image via Thinkstock