This winter at Arizona's Snowbowl, the powdery white snow won't always have been so white: The ski resort will become the first ever to make its artificial snow from 100% sewage effluent. The wastewater has been treated, of course, and the US Forest Service—which owns the land—says it meets a standard just below that of drinking water. Even so, the plan has come under quite a bit of attack from Native Americans (who worry that the sewage will desecrate sacred land) and environmentalists (who worry that, well, it's sewage). Despite years of protests, an appeals court ruled in February that the ski resort could move forward with the plan, the New York Times reports.
Environmentalists raise the icky point that some skiers might fall and ingest the wastewater. A scientist hired by the city of Flagstaff to test the water found that it contains hormones, antibiotics, and numerous other chemicals. "We don’t know what effect freezing and thawing is going to have on the chemical compounds," she says. "We don’t know what UV is going to do to them. Some of the compounds will bind to the soil; some will get into the aquifers. It is a very complicated system that we know very little about." But, she adds, "a mouthful of snow is not going to make the difference." The EPA is looking into the chemicals, and the resort owners say they will comply if the agency decides to regulate them.