News Feature | June 20, 2014

Don't Flush The Gold

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Several Montana residents have struck gold, but not in the way they might have wanted to.

It appears gold flakes may be entering their homes through their water. 

 "Mark Brown of Whitehall says his wife Sharon was letting out the dishwater after washing up when she noticed something odd - what looked like flakes of gold among the suds," the Daily Mail reported.

 The couple immediately investigated. "[They] went hunting for more flakes. [Flakes appeared] in the toilet tank and the bathroom faucets, too. The Browns' neighbor, Paul Harper, also saw the tiny gold nuggets in his water," the New York Daily News reported.

 Harper decided to run some tests.  "A special chemical will dissolve all metals except pure gold," the Daily News report said. "The flakes didn't melt away."

 The incident has sparked questions about contamination. "It's raising concerns about what else might be in the water," NBC Montana reported. "Residents are concerned about what their findings mean for the town's water supply and its filtration," the Orlando Sentinel reported.

 Authorities said there is no reason to worry, the Daily News reported,citing Whitehall Public Works Director Jerry Ward.

 "While there's a gold mine about five miles away from the town, officials said it's an unlikely source for the tiny flakes," the report said. "Instead, the gold bits probably came from the water pipes and pumps, a State Department of Environmental Quality official told the TV station."

 According to Lenntech, a water treatment and purification manufacturer, "Gold has not been evaluated for its ecotoxicity. However, the biodegradation of gold under aerobic conditions is expected to be very poor and there is no evidence to suggest it creates ecological problems when released into the environment. Since gold is insoluble, it is believed to have minimal bioaccumulation and bioavailability characteristics."

 The company said there are no adverse health effects expected from ingesting lead.

 Image credit: "028.365 Fool's Gold," ReillyButler © 2010, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommo