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Wastewater Snowmaking Gets Legal OK

Ski resort Arizona Snowbowl has avoided legal censure for its reuse of human wastewater to make snow.

The resort, located 14 miles outside Flagstaff, Ariz., is the only resort in the world to use 100 percent wastewater to make its snow. The resort is based on the San Francisco Peaks – sacred and holy land to at least 13 Southwest tribes.

Angered by the use of wastewater on holy land, the Hopi Tribe filed a lawsuit in August 2011 claiming the contract from the City of Flagstaff to sell 1.5 million gallons or reclaimed wastewater to the ski resort violated several Arizona laws that govern the use of treated sewage effluent, reports the Indian Country Today Media Network.

On February 9 the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the legal efforts of the tribe, but during the hearings health concerns about the use of wastewater for recreational use were raised by both tribe members and local residents.

The use of reclaimed wastewater for drinking water is currently a hot topic in the Southwest as climate change and population growth eat into an already strained water supply. A recent report by the National Academy of Science suggests that if coastal communities treat effluent that is currently sent out to sea, they could increase the amount of municipal water by 27 percent, according to the New York Times.

In June 2011, an owner and operator of wastewater treatment facilities was sentenced in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana to 21 months in prison and handed and a $310,000 criminal fine for violating the Clean Water Act.

Violations by Jeffrey Pruett, the CEO of LWC Management Company, Inc. and principal of Louisiana Land & Water Company (LLWC), in Monroe, La., polluted local drinking water supplies and threatened public health, the EPA said.

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