There is much literature on the financial conditions of municipal governments in the US. Are things getting so bad financially for local governments that they are considering sorting through your feces for gold?
According to scientists, fortunes are going down the drain in human feces, arguing that the amount of gold going down the drain would be considered commercially viable by traditional prospects.
“The gold we found was at the level of a minimal mineral deposit,” said Kathleen Smith, of the US Geological Survey.
Smith and her colleagues claim that waste could be eliminated by extracting metals from feces.
“If you can get rid of some of the nuisance metals that currently limit how much of these biosolids we can use on fields and forests, and at the same time recover valuable metals and other elements, that’s a win-win,” she said.
An Arizona State University study conjectured that, in a city of 1 million inhabitants, approximately $13 million worth in precious metals are flushed down toilets and sewer drains each year.
Scientists say that the use of leachates, or powerful chemicals, could be used to pull metals out of the excrement in sewage plants.
Increasingly, precious metals are being used in everyday products, like shampoos, detergents, and even clothes. These precious metals ultimately are funnelled through sewage treatment plants, where many metals end up in solid waste.
“We’re interested in collecting valuable metals that could be sold, including some of the more technologically important metals, such as vanadium and copper that are in cell phones, computers and alloys,” Smith said.
How did the scientists figure out just how much gold was in our fecal waste?
The team collected samples from small towns in the Rocky Mountains, both rural communities and big cities. They then used a scanning electron microscope to observe microscopic quantities of gold, silver and platinum.
The findings were presented on Monday at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Denver. The scientists demonstrated that the levels of the precious metals were comparable with those found in commercial mines, suggesting that mining these metals would be financially sound.
The study lasted eight-years, and required monthly testing of treated sewage samples. Over this period, the team discovered that 1kg of sludge held about 0.4mg gold, 28mg of silver, 638mg copper and 49mg vanadium.
In Tokyo, a sewage treatment facility has begun extracting gold from sludge. That plant is reportedly yielding as much as some leading gold mines.
It remains to be seen whether or not local municipalities will turn to extracting precious metals from feces, but it might be one day for them to pay down their record debts.