Removal of pharmaceuticals and fragrances in biological wastewater treatment

Adriano Joss, Elvira Keller, Alfredo C Alder, Anke Göbel, Christa S McArdell, Thomas Ternes, Hansruedi Siegrist
Water Research 2005, 39 (14): 3139-52
The removal of seven pharmaceuticals and two fragrances in the biological units of various full-scale municipal wastewater treatment plants was studied. The observed removal of pharmaceuticals was mainly due to biological transformation and varied from insignificant (<10%, carbamazepine) to>90% (ibuprofen). However, no quantitative relationship between structure and activity can be set up for the biological transformation. Overall, it can be concluded that for compounds showing a sorption coefficient (K(d)) of below 300 L kg(-1), sorption onto secondary sludge is not relevant and their transformation can consequently be assessed simply by comparing influent and effluent concentrations. The two fragrances (HHCB, AHTN) studied were mainly removed by sorption onto sludge. For the compounds studied, comparable transformation and sorption was seen for different reactor types (conventional activated sludge, membrane bioreactor and fixed bed reactor) as well as for sludge ages between 10 and 60-80 days and temperatures between 12 degrees C and 21 degrees C. However, some significant variations in the observed removal currently lack an explanation. The observed incoming daily load of iopromide and roxithromycin in medium-sized municipal wastewater treatment plants (up to 80,000 population equivalents) is generated by only a small number of patients: the consequences for representative 24h composite sampling are discussed. Generally, the paper presents a method for setting up mass balances for micropollutants over entire wastewater treatment plants, including an estimation of the accuracy of the quantified fate (i.e. removal by sorption and biological transformation).

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