Swiss wastewater is of ‘gold’ standard
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.