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Fate of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in a wastewater treatment plant with parallel secondary wastewater treatment train

Kumar, Rahul, Sarmah, Ajit K., Padhye, Lokesh P.
Journal of environmental management 2019 v.233 pp. 649-659
acetaminophen, autumn, beta-adrenergic antagonists, caffeine, ecotoxicology, environmental factors, ibuprofen, membrane bioreactors, personal care products, rain, risk, seasonal variation, sulfamethoxazole, triazoles, trimethoprim, wastewater, wastewater treatment, winter, New Zealand
Seasonal variations in the concentrations and fate of 20 selected pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) were investigated over one year in a wastewater treatment plant in New Zealand, which relies on a membrane bioreactor (MBR) and Bardenpho as parallel processes for its secondary treatment. Results showed that all of the monitored PPCPs were detected in the wastewater influent. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and caffeine were predominant in the influent, whereas in the effluent, β-blockers and benzotriazole were present at significant concentrations. Total PPCPs' concentration in the influent was found to be 130 μg/L. Average removal efficiency was found to be ≥ 99% for acetaminophen, caffeine, TCEP, naproxen, and ibuprofen, whereas <50% of trimethoprim, metoprolol, and benzotriazole were removed. Contrary to the existing literature, no significant differences were found in the removal of PPCPs through MBR and Bardenpho processes, hinting that optimally operated Bardenpho can be equally effective in the removal of emerging contaminants as MBR. The occurrence and removal efficiencies of PPCPs were found to exhibit significant seasonal variations, with the highest influent concentrations of PPCPs reported in autumn and winter. Heavy rainfall had an insignificant impact on PPCPs' removal efficiencies although it resulted in much-diluted concentrations of PPCPs in the influent. Spearman's correlation analysis showed significant correlations between PPCPs' mass loads in the influent, wastewater quality parameters, and environmental factors. It was also found that, except sulfamethoxazole, ecotoxicity risks were minimal for the rest of the monitored PPCPs in wastewater effluent.