Select Page

Sewage sludge could contain millions of dollars worth of gold

Research led by ASU environmental engineer Paul Westerhoff to improve wastewater treatment resulted in a surprising discovery: Sewage sludge in the amounts produced in large metropolitan areas contains significant amounts of valuable metals – including gold and silver.

Westerhoff is a professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

He is the lead author of a study published in a recent edition of the research journal Environmental Science & Technology that revealed the finding, which set off a wave of headlines on popular news sites of major publications.

The study sparked speculation about whether urban areas might somehow find ways to harvest the metals from sludge, enabling them to recoup something of value from material that is costly to treat and dispose of.

In addition to Science magazine, the discovery made news on, in Discover magazine, the International Business Times, Gizmodo, Fast Times, CBC Radio (Canada).

There was also coverage from Fox News, Money magazine, Spektrum (Germany), a Luxembourg radio station, (Australia), Le Monde (France), the Macedonian Information Agency and Kitco News, which covers the metals investment industry.

Additional reports were published by Business CheatSheet and the Huffington Post. Westerhoff was also interviewed on a popular talk show “Top of Mind” with Julie Rose on on BYU Radio at Brigham Young University (scroll down the page to the “Precious Metals” segment).

The research brought together experts at ASU from a range of fields. Contributions came from faculty in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment and the Polytechnic School in the Fulton Schools of Engineering,

In addition, faculty members in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the School of Earth and Space Exploration in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences were involved, as well as those at the Center for Environmental Security in the Biodesign Institute.

Support came from the National Science Foundation through the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research project based at ASU.

Article source: Science magazine


Editor’s Note: Links are included for informational purposes only. Due to varying editorial policies, news publications may remove or change a link for archival purposes at any time without notice.

Media Contact
Joe Kullman, [email protected]
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


About The Author

Joe Kullman

Joe Kullman is a science writer for the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Before joining Arizona State University in 2006, Joe worked as a reporter, writer and editor for newspapers and magazines dating back to the dawn of the age of the personal computer. He began his career while earning degrees in journalism and philosophy from Kent State University in Ohio. Media Contact: [email protected] | 480-965-8122 | Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering Communications

ASU Engineering on Facebook