Maybe as a kid, you had a goldfish, turtle, or aquatic snake (speaking of snakes, can you find one in this photo?). This possible pet took ill and passed away. So, you did what any child tasked with planning a liquid-loving animal funeral did: You flushed the little guy down the toilet. Mr. Bubbles, Shelley McCoy, or Snakey McSnakeface was just taking a little nap and the sewer system would bring him all the way back to the ocean.
In reality, not all sewers lead to the ocean, and that nap was an eternal one. But if it turned out that your pet’s pronunciation of death was incorrect and you happened to spend your formative years in Switzerland, then there’s a pretty solid chance that your pet is living large—thanks to the absurd amount of gold in the Swiss sewer system. That’s because, according to Bloomberg, it’s estimated that each year, Switzerland flushes $1.8 million worth of gold down the drain.
Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology made this discovery doing what they do best: staring at wastewater. During a sewage waste analysis project on 64 different water treatment plants and rivers, the researchers made the gilded discovery. Each year, 94 pounds worth of gold and 6,600 pounds of silver ($1.7 million worth) are expelled through the Swiss water system.
The study, which was recently published in Environmental Science & Technology, originally set out to find trace elements that may have made their way into the common waterways due to Switzerland’s burgeoning tech and medical industry. Then they struck… rare metal.
The high precious metal concentrations could be the result of Switzerland’s sizeable gold refinery industry. The study noted that one region in particular, Ticino, had a drastically higher concentration than other systems. So high that it was deemed that “concentrations of gold in sewage sludge are sufficiently high for recovery to be potentially worthwhile.”
But Ticino is an outlier, according to the study. For the most part, the concentration in the average water system is not large enough to warrant the effort. So next time you’re staying in Schaffhausen, don’t go panning for gold in your Brita pitcher. (No word if these rare and expensive Pokemon cards were found in the water, either.