Swiss waste­water is of ‘gold’ stan­dard

DNA (Daily News & Analysis) Mumbai Edition - - FRONT PAGE -

Is gold abun­dant in Switzer­land? Will it trig­ger a gold rush, at­tract­ing for­tune hunters from across the globe? There are am­ple rea­sons to re­visit Char­lie Chap­lin’s im­mor­tal movie, chief among them be­ing a sur­vey un­der­taken by a sci­en­tific body. Re­searchers from the Swiss Fed­eral In­sti­tute of Aquatic Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, known as EAWAG (a Ger­man acro­nym), sur­veyed 64 waste­water treat­ment plants across Switzer­land and es­ti­mated that up to 43 kgs of gold passes through the coun­try’s sew­er­age sys­tem each year — an amount equal to around $1.8 million. Though the con­cen­tra­tions of pre­cious met­als in most places are too mi­nor to present any threat to the en­vi­ron­ment, in some ar­eas, such as Ti­cino in the south of the coun­try, the con­cen­tra­tions of gold in sewage sludge are suf­fi­ciently high for re­cov­ery to be po­ten­tially worth­while. Hold your heart be­cause there is more good news! It is thought that the 64 treat­ment plants also saw a to­tal of around 3,000 kgs of sil­ver go through Swiss sewage sys­tems. The Swiss au­thor­i­ties may be un­der­whelmed by the news since the coun­try re­fines around 70 per cent of the world’s gold on an av­er­age ev­ery year, but for the rest of hu­man­ity, it’s sure to jack up adren­a­line lev­els. How­ever, the EAWAG has also is­sued a caveat say­ing that lit­tle is known as of yet about the po­ten­tial tox­i­co­log­i­cal ef­fects of many trace el­e­ments.

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