Advanced biological activated carbon filter for removing pharmaceutically active compounds from treated wastewater

Through their release of effluents, conventional wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) represent a major pollution point sources for pharmaceutically active compounds (PhACs) in water bodies. The combination of a biological activated carbon (BAC) filter coupled with an ultrafiltration (UF) unit was evaluated as an advanced treatment for PhACs removal at pilot scale. The BAC-UF pilot plant was monitored for one year. The biological activity of the biofilm that developed on the granular activated carbon (GAC) particles and the contribution of this biofilm to the overall removal of PhACs were evaluated. Two different phases were observed during the long-term monitoring of PhACs removal. During the first 9200 bed volumes (BV; i.e., before GAC saturation), 89, 78, 83 and 79% of beta-blockers, psychiatric drugs, antibiotics and a mix of other therapeutic groups were removed, respectively. The second phase was characterized by deterioration of the overall performances during the period between 9200 and 13,800 BV. To quantify the respective contribution of adsorption and biodegradation, a lab-scale setup was operated for four months and highlighted the essential role played by GAC in biofiltration units. Physical adsorption was indeed the main removal mechanism. Nevertheless, a significant contribution due to biological activity was detected for some PhACs. The biofilm contributed to the removal of 22, 25, 30, 32 and 35% of ciprofloxacin, bezafibrate, ofloxacin, azithromycin and sulfamethoxazole, respectively.

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Laboratori d’Enginyeria Química i Ambiental

Institut de Medi Ambient
Universitat de Girona
Campus Montilivi
17003 Girona

Parc Científic i Tecnològic de la UdG
Edifici Jaume Casademont, Porta B
Pic de Peguera, 15
17003 Girona
Tel. +34 972 41 98 59



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