Citizens Petition to reconsider usage and regulation for water in Flagstaff, Arizona
We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned about the usage of reclaimed wastewater being used in the City of Flagstaff: for the overall health of our community, and for Flagstaff's exportation and dispersion of reclaimed wastewater into fragile ecosystems outside of city limits.
The City of Flagstaff has been using reclaimed wastewater for years, predominately for irrigation and for recharging water wells, and is now planning to make artificial snow with the reclaimed wastewater on the San Francisco Peaks this winter. The city is acting in arrogant disregard to how reclaimed wastewater could impact the health for all life apart of this community. Based off of multiple tests conducted on the Arizona Department of Enviornmental Quality's reclaimed wastewater of several grades, "A" reclaimed wastewater (the same water being used for artificial snowmaking) has been shown to potentially carry contaminants such as endocrine disruptors, flame retardants, industrial waste, high levels of estrogen, and large amounts of antibiotic resistant bacteria, amongst other things (listed in Dr. Cathy Propper’s study called the “ Endocrine Disruptor Screening Project” and Dr. Robin Silver’s study “Antibiotic Resistance Gene Testing of Recycled Water Samples"). This entails that the Arizona Department of Environmental Qualitiy's standards for reclaimed wastewater, and the City of Flagstaff's judgement of the water, are not broad enough to bevy a rapidly evolving pharamceutical industry or consider all industrial wastes inadequately disposed of into the environement.
Alongside the serious concerns for human health impacts, other studies
have shown that Arizona's standards for reclaimed wastewater are threatening in regards to not damaging or infringing upon sensitive flora, and therefore the whole ecosystem that's dependent on them. Dr. Ursula Schuch's research, “Impact of drought on management of salt sensitive plants with reclaimed water”, has shown that the reclaimed wastewater has overwhelmingly high amounts of phosphorus and sodium, amongst other elements, which negatively affect native plant growth. In another report, “Effects of Long-Term Recycled Wastewater Irrigation on Visual Quality and Ion Concentrations of Ponderosa Pine” compiled by multiple scientists, they conclude that reclaimed wastewater negatively affects Ponderosa Pine; Flagstaff, a city to boast that is lies along the western side of the largest contiguous Ponderosa Pine forest in the continental United States
The City of Flagstaff's resolutions for reclaimed wastewater regulation are extremely outdated, especially in regards to snowmaking, which was published in 2002. According to the Utilities Director, the City currently has no tests to analyze whether the presence or absence of antibiotic resisting bacteria is even in the water or reclaimed wastewater. Although antibiotic resistent bacteria are present everywhere, why perpetuate and encourage their prominence when they are known to rebound drastically at the point of usage, according to Dr. Silver's study? Pharmaceuticals support the survival of the most resilient bacteria and these very bacteria are being disposed of into the environment through reclaimed wastewater, which is a product of sewage. These things do not simply 'disappear', especially with the City's current methods for treating the water.
The City of Flagstaff has also drilled wells within a hundred feet of a reclaimed wastewater drainage source (i.e., Foxglenn well, Continental well) and has allowed Flagstaff's water supply to be recharged with reclaimed wastewater, with little study of how it affects human health, or little clarity amongst the public about where exactly their water comes from.
If the water is so safe, why use it to make artificial snow instead of conserving it for drinking? Climate change is underway and the potential of exaperated clean water sources is lurking.
As community members of Flagstaff, we and other inhabitants face multiple
repercussions from reclaimed wastewater. For instance:
- Severe alterations to sensitive, rare alpine forest due to the findings mentioned above;
- Run off water from the mountain and it further contaminating the aquifer
for Flagstaff’s and surrounding communities’ fresh water resources;
- Wildlife fleeting into surrounding neighborhoods due to pipeline infrastructure
encroaching on their territory and ultimately displacing them from their
habitats, i.e. habitat fragmentation;
- Soil, water, and air contamination - particularly pollutants not
currently tested for in treated wastewater in this locale;
- Potential infertility of flora and fauna which come into contact with
the reclaimed wastewater;
- Concerns about long term after effects of the consumption of reclaimed
wastewater (i.e., autism), especially for the young and elderly and all
others with compromised immune systems, from Flagstaff's water supply, irrigation system, or artificial snow;
- Effects on threatened species endemic to an area being directly affected
by the wastewater, like the San Francisco Peaks Ragwort (Packera
findings of all research mentioned into consideration and to uphold your
second guiding principle:
Nurture healthy ecosystems: natural environmental health is inherent to
individual and community health.
Under the first amendment of the constitution of the United States of
America and under the Flagstaff City Charter Article II, Section 17. We
request the City of Flagstaff to do the following:
- To further examine its usage of reclaimed water in the city and in
surrounding areas and consult with the public about its findings in a meaningful way;
- To postpone artificial snowmaking with reclaimed wastewater until
stronger and more encompassing city standards are met and consented upon
by the public;
- To actively be accountable for any impositions anyone's' health who comes into contact with this wastewater, since the City endorses the water;
- To fund and encourage more research about the safety of reclaimed
And finally, to use and allocate a finite resource that's essential to
all life (water) more responsibly, and not with the priority of business.