Saint John — Some people believe that gold has a smell, but it is definitely true for the gold found under the streets of the Port City.
This past week, thieves in Saint John made headlines after absconding with tens of thousands of dollars in copper wire from businesses in the industrial park. Now, they have moved on to a much more lucrative target — the solid gold power wires found throughout the 228 kilometres of the Saint John sanitary sewer system.
“Back when electrical wiring was first being run underground throughout the city, gold and cooper were about the same price,” explained 79-year-old retired city engineer Merle Aurum. “Gold is much less prone to corrosion, so it made sense to use it for the cables that run through the sewers.
“Those gold power cables under the city are now worth a small fortune, and those smelly criminals are risking their lives to steal it,” he lamented.
As scrap metal, a spool of 600-volt copper wire is worth about $10,000. By comparison, an equivalent spool of 600 volt gold wiring is now worth about $12 million. However, stealing energized high-voltage gold wiring from the city sewer isn’t as easy as it sounds.
“There’s rats as big as harbour seals!” says Aurum. “Also, it’s a sewer so you know what else is down there. There are things that you can’t unsee… or unsmell. A colleague of mine caught bulbar conjunctivitis from being in the sewer — we used to call it the ol’ ‘gas eye‘ — it’s a horrible way to go. You might become a millionaire, but at what cost?”
Aurum warned the gold diggers to keep one thing in mind. “Just remember when you’re down there in the sewer, all that glistens is not gold.”