The Proud Bricks Of Willow Street

IMG_5011German Village is a brick enclave.  Most of the humble bricks that make up the the houses and streets, however, are sadly and utterly anonymous — simple, ruddy red, generic rectangular blocks made of clay and straw, fired in a kiln, with nothing to tell you where they came from or how they got here.

Except on Willow Street.  On Willow Street, between its intersections with Lazelle and Mohawk, the bricks in the roadway are loud and proud. Their places of manufacture are stamped onto their surfaces, telling of companies that once thrived when America was a land of brick, before it became a land of steel and concrete.  Nelsonville Block.  Zanesville Block.  Athens Block.  Peebles, and Metropolitan Block, of Canton, O.  Trimble.

It’s as if the brickmakers and blockmakers knew that their products were going to Willow Street and decided to do something special.  And it is special.IMG_5013

 

There’s Gold In Them Thar Poop

The members of the American Chemical Society must be very curious people.  For example, a presentation at the most recent national meeting of the ACS addressed the prospects for recovery of gold, silver, copper, vanadium, palladium, and other precious metals that are found in . . . human waste.

According to a BBC report, the ACS presentation concluded, through a study that must have been incredibly disgusting to conduct, that gold is found in waste from American sewage treatment plants at the same levels found in a minimal mineral deposit. A prior study had found that the waste from 1 million Americans includes about $13 million in rare metals, and scientists are evaluating whether an extraction process using certain leaches could be applied to the solid waste produced by waste water treatment plans to see whether the rare metals could be pulled out, presumably cleaned up, and then sold.

The concept of extracting metals from solid waste is similar to the notion of “mining” metals from landfills and waste dumps.  Some experts estimate that landfills contain billions of dollars in metals, if they could just figure out an economical way to separate the metals from the disposable diapers and other vile items that have American landfills filled to the brim.  Already some “landfill mining” operations are underway.

Metals, if improperly disposed of, can be environmentally damaging, so I’m all in favor of any process that results in more complete recycling — even if it means sifting through smelly tons of human waste.  The BBC story about the ACS presentation left unanswered my central question about this issue, however:  how in the world does gold and vanadium get into the human digestive system, and its end product, in the first place?