How to avoid pharmaceuticals in the aquatic environment.

Research paper by Tove A TA Larsen, Judit J Lienert, Adriano A Joss, Hansruedi H Siegrist

Indexed on: 24 Sep '04Published on: 24 Sep '04Published in: Journal of biotechnology


Pharmaceuticals and other micropollutants in wastewater pose a new challenge to wastewater professionals as well as to the pharmaceutical industry. Although there is a great deal of uncertainty concerning the possible detrimental effects on the aquatic ecosystems, the precautionary principle--or possibly new scientific evidence--may give rise to more stringent demands on wastewater treatment in the future. In conventional wastewater treatment plants, a combination of biological treatment with high sludge residence times and ozonation of the effluent seems to be the most promising technology. Ozonation, however, is an energy-intensive technology. Moreover, in conventional end-of-pipe systems a large part of the pollutants will always be lost to the environment due to leaking, primarily during rain. In the long term, source separation offers the more sustainable solution to the entire wastewater problem, including organic micropollutants. Urine source separation is an elegant solution to the problems of nutrients and pharmaceuticals alike and losses of untreated pollutants to the environment can be minimized. Although few technologies for the separate treatment of urine have been developed to date, the 100-500 times higher concentrations of micropollutants promise more efficient conditions for all removal technologies known from conventional wastewater treatment.