Is There Gold in the Sewers?

When people talk about flushing money down the toilet, they’re usually referring to waste in a figurative sense, but recent research out of Arizona State University is bringing a literal meaning to this popular expression. The study, which was conducted in 2015, concluded that the accumulation of various minerals in sewer sludge—including gold, silver and platinum—could be worth around $13 million in a city with a population of one million people!

Precious minerals in sewer sludge

Sludge is a semi-liquid material created as a byproduct of sewage treatment. In most cases, this sludge is used as fertilizer in agricultural contexts, and some of it is burned or disposed of in landfills. The Arizona State University study gathered samples of this sludge from various treatment facilities and looked for valuable minerals. What the research team found was that for every ton of sludge that is produced, there could be as much as $280 worth of precious minerals. That might sound like a lot of sludge, but it’s actually quite impressive considering that many mining companies report that they must mine between two and 90 tons of ore just to get a single ounce of gold, valued at approximately $1,300.

So, how did all those valuable metals get into sewage sludge, anyway? Although nobody’s exactly sure where it all comes from, some estimate that it might be runoff from factories that manufacture jewelry and electronics. Regardless of the source of the valuable minerals, you might be wondering whether any cities are capitalizing on the presence of these precious metals by extracting them from sludge. Unfortunately, there’s just not a good way to do this yet. Although extraction can be done, it is a difficult process that would require a significant amount of energy and money to complete on a large scale. The current process requires a lot of harsh chemicals and heavy machinery, which consumes an enormous amount of energy.

The main concern is what kind of environmental implications these minerals have. Since sludge is used as a fertilizer in so many large-scale agricultural operations across the country, people are concerned that these minerals may be harmful to soil, plants and wildlife. In light of the value of these minerals and the impact they could have on the environment, it’s possible that a method will be developed for extracting precious metals from sewage sludge on a large scale in the future.

Professional sludge disposal in Bethel, OH

You probably won’t have much luck panning for gold in sewage sludge, so it’s probably best to leave your sludge disposal in Bethel, OH to a team of professionals. At Gullett Sanitation Services Inc., we provide comprehensive sewage and septic services, including jet aeration, septic maintenance and sludge disposal in Bethel, OH. We have been providing quality services since 1942, and we would be happy to put our decades of experience to work for you. Find out more by giving our team of trained and certified professionals a call today to get some additional information and arrange a service consultation.

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