Seasonal variation in the occurrence and removal of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in different biological wastewater treatment processes

Qian Sui, Jun Huang, Shubo Deng, Weiwei Chen, Gang Yu
Environmental Science & Technology 2011 April 15, 45 (8): 3341-8
The occurrence of 12 pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in two wastewater treatment plants in Beijing was studied monthly over the course of one year. The removal of PPCPs by three biological treatment processes including conventional activated sludge (CAS), biological nutrient removal (BNR), and membrane bioreactor (MBR) was compared during different seasons. Seasonal variations of PPCPs in the wastewater influent were discrepant, while in the wastewater effluent, most PPCPs had lower concentrations in the summer than in the winter. For the easily biodegradable PPCPs, the performance of MBR was demonstrated to be more stable than CAS or BNR especially during winter months. Diclofenac, trimethoprim, metoprolol, and gemfibrozil could be moderately removed by MBR, while their removal by CAS and BNR was much lower or even negligible. Nevertheless, no removal was achieved regardless of the season or the treatment processes for the recalcitrant PPCPs. Studies on the contribution of each tank of the MBR process to the total removal of four biodegradable PPCPs indicated the oxic tank was the most important unit, whereas membrane filtration made a negligible contribution to their elimination.

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