Scientists find $1.8 million worth of gold in Swiss wastewater

For the major nutrient phosphorus, measurements from this study confirmed earlier calculations: inputs from wastewater treatment plants account for 50 per cent of phosphorus loads in large Swiss rivers.

Switzerland seems like a lovely place to live: snowy mountain peaks to ski, lakeside cities to explore, and 43 kilograms of gold flowing through the sewers that no one seems all that anxious about.

The researchers estimated that over 6,500 pounds of silver ($1.8 million at current prices) flows into Swiss waste water each year.

The related study was conducted by an aquatic science institute called Eawag. Swiss refineries process about 70 percent of the world's gold.

Concentrations of the gold were heavier in certain areas of Switzerland, with one section near refineries boasting elevated levels of the metal.

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A 2015 study by Arizona State University found as much as US$13 million worth of metals in sewage waters produced every year in a city with a million people, US$2.6 million of which is gold and silver.

Still, gold is not the only prized possession coursing through the sewage pipes in Switzerland.

Researchers' speculation pins the silver findings (and that of other rare minerals) to the nation's manufacturing of electronic devices. The study centered on 64 waste treatment plants across Switzerland and claims to the be the first systematic wastewater survey for trace elements in an industrialized country.

In September, Swiss investigators launched a probe into why two Spanish women flushed roughly €100,000 ($120,000) down toilets in Geneva. Investigators feared it could have been dirty money - pun intended.

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