MODESTO NEWS: A new Gold Rush?

kvaline@modbee.comMarch 21, 2013 

JBL Sewer Gold 2

JOAN BARNETT LEE/jlee@modbee.com Jewelry from the sewer is pictured on Wednesday afternoon (03-20-13) at Modesto Gold, Jewelry & Coins on Needham Street in Modesto, Ca.

JOAN BARNETT LEE — The Modesto Bee

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate text Kevin Valine
    Title: Reporter
    Coverage areas: City of Modesto and nonprofits
    Bio: Kevin Valine has been a copy editor and reporter at The Bee since January 2006. He's worked at the Reno Gazette-Journal, Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune and Paradise Post as a reporter and copy editor. He's a graduate of San Jose State.
    Recent stories written by Kevin
    E-mail: kvaline@modbee.com

— Apparently, there is a lot more gold in Modesto’s roughly 670 miles of sewers than I ever imagined.

I never gave that much thought until this week when I wrote two stories about the police investigating three city workers who had sold gold jewelry they found while cleaning sewer lines.

Since then, I’ve received about a half-dozen phone calls and emails from former and current sewer workers who tell me I’d be surprised by the type of valuables that can be found in the dirtiest and grossest of places.

One emailer said when he worked for another Central Valley city it was not uncommon for him and hs co-workers to find jewelry and coins. He definitely does not think the Modesto workers — who sold the jewelry to a dealer for the value of its gold — did anything wrong.

“The only crime here is maybe the employees should of got permission or shared their treasure with all the employees,” the emailer wrote. “ … That job is thankless and dirty and a little bling always keeps you smiling. I say keep up the good work.”

Another sewer pro recalled her time cleaning sewers in the 1980s.

“You find a lot of stuff downstream of laundromats,” said Carrie Mattingly, San Luis Obispo’s director of utilities and president of the California Water Environment Association, an industry group for waste-water professionals.

Mattingly said that stuff can include lots of quarters that go down laundromats’ drains.

But she and others emphasized that just because something gets flushed down the toilet or goes down the drain does not mean its lost for good. Sewer workers can find your wedding ring and other valuables.

You just need to call them. They can clean out the sewer line associated with your home and then can separate the liquids from the solids.

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