They Found $2M in Gold ... in Sewage

And that's just the annual amount discarded in Switzerland
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 12, 2017 3:33 AM CDT
They Found $2M in Gold ... in Sewage
This gold dust is a little cleaner than the traces researchers found.   (Wikimedia/James St. John)

There's more than cash going down the drain in Switzerland. About $2 million in gold and $1.8 million in silver ends up in Switzerland's sewers each year, according to an environmental study commissioned by the Swiss government. Strange as it sounds, researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology say it's not much of a surprise that 95 pounds of gold and 6,600 pounds of silver from Switzerland's gold refineries and watchmaking industry find a way into wastewater systems, along with trace amounts of rare earth minerals used in electronic components and even some paints, per CNN Money. If you're considering donning a hazmat suit for a smelly treasure hunt, however, you may want to reconsider.

After checking 64 wastewater treatment plants across the country for "elements discharged in effluents or disposed of in sewage sludge" and determining they pose no real danger to the environment, researchers generally concluded the metals aren't worth the trouble it would take to collect them, reports Atlas Obscura. They note, however, that in some areas where gold refineries are abundant, "concentrations of gold in sewage sludge are sufficiently high for recovery to be potentially worthwhile." US sewers see a similar phenomenon. A 2015 study estimated that Americans send about $13 million worth of precious metals down the drain each year, thanks to their presence in hair care products, detergents, and the like, reports Time. (Gold was recently found in another unexpected place.)

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