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Biological Degradation of Pharmaceuticals in Municipal Wastewater Treatment: Proposing a Classification Scheme

Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Eawag, 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland.
Water Research (Impact Factor: 5.32). 06/2006; 40(8):1686-96. DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2006.02.014
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT A simple classification scheme is suggested to characterize the biological degradation of micropollutants such as pharmaceuticals, musk fragrances and estrogens during wastewater treatment. The scheme should be a basis for the discussion about potential removal efficiencies. Hence, the biological degradation of 25 pharmaceuticals, hormones and fragrances was studied in batch experiments at typical concentration levels using activated sewage sludge originating from nutrient-eliminating municipal wastewater treatment plants. Since pseudo first-order degradation kinetics was observed for all compounds down to ng L(-1) levels, the removal rates can be predicted for various reactor configurations. Therefore dilution of wastewater (e.g. by extraneous water) is expected to reduce the degree of biological removal. Wastewater segregation and treatment at the source are therefore to be favoured for elimination of persistent micropollutants over centralized end-of-pipe treatment. For reactor configurations typical for nutrient removal in municipal wastewater, the derived formula for predicting removal allows the identification of three groups of micropollutants according to their degradation constant k(biol): compounds with k(biol)<0.1 L g(SS)(-1)d(-1) are not removed to a significant extent (<20%), compounds with k(biol)>10 L g(SS)(-1)d(-1) transformed by >90% and in-between moderate removal is expected. Based on the degradation of a heterogeneous group of 35 compounds (including literature data), state of the art biological treatment schemes for municipal wastewater are not efficient in degrading pharmaceuticals: only 4 out of 35 compounds are degraded by more than 90% while 17 compounds are removed by less than 50%.

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    • "They found very little elimination of this compound. This observation was consistent with those of Joss et al. [21]. Serrano et al. [22], operating an MBR reactor fed with spiked synthetic wastewater also found no significant removal of CBZ without the addition of pulverized activated carbon to the system. "
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    • "Most pharmaceutical wastewater contains large amounts of antibiotics, antiviral and anti-serum drugs, as well as toxic, highly concentrated and non-biodegradable organic intermediates (i.e. nitroimidazoles, sulfonamides, ketones, phenol, etc.), which are more than that in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) and drinking water plants, bringing with potential hazards to human health and the environment (Joss et al. 2006; Aguilar et al. 2014). The concentration thereof may reach several hundred mg L -1 . "
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    • "Other advanced treatments have been studied for this purpose,[22] [23] [24] [25] although their full-scale application has not been implemented . Regarding activated sludge processes, several authors have studied their capacity to remove pharmaceuticals from sewage,[26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] this capacity being highly related to process parameters.[27] In the specific case of TC, Kim et al. [32] operated two lab-scale sequencing batch reactors (SBRs) to determine the influence of hydraulic retention time (HRT) and solid retention time on the removal of this antibiotic from urban wastewater. "
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