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Making Snow With Recycled Sewage Could Breed Super Bacteria

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As I wrote in The Times recently, a ski resort in northern Arizona will become the first in the world to make artificial snow totally out of sewage effluent this winter. Last February, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of the resort, Arizona Snowbowl, ending a 10-year legal battle waged by environmental and Native American groups that warned that the wastewater snow would damage wildlife, human health and a mountain considered sacred by 13 Indian tribes.

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 genes were not detectable in the plant itself but “increased dramatically” at the point of use, meaning that they were found in places like sprinkler heads, the study said. “This means bacteria is growing in the distribution pipes,” said Amy Pruden, the author and an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech.
 
 

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