Stadler, Lauren B.3; Su, Lijuan4; Moline, Christopher J.3; Ernstoff, Alexi S.1; Aga, Diana S.4; Love, Nancy G.3
1 Department of Management Engineering, Technical University of Denmark2 Quantitative Sustainability Assessment, Department of Management Engineering, Technical University of Denmark3 University of Michigan4 State University of New York
We lack a clear understanding of how wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) process parameters, such as redox environment, impact pharmaceutical fate. WWTPs increasingly install more advanced aeration control systems to save energy and achieve better nutrient removal performance. The impact of redox condition, and specifically the use of microaerobic (low dissolved oxygen) treatment, is poorly understood. In this study, the fate of a mixture of pharmaceuticals and several of their transformation products present in the primary effluent of a local WWTP was assessed in sequencing batch reactors operated under different redox conditions: fully aerobic, anoxic/aerobic, and microaerobic (DO concentration ≈0.3 mg/L). Among the pharmaceuticals that were tracked during this study (atenolol, trimethoprim, sulfamethoxazole, desvenlafaxine, venlafaxine, and phenytoin), overall loss varied between them and between redox environments. Losses of atenolol and trimethoprim were highest in the aerobic reactor; sulfamethoxazole loss was highest in the microaerobic reactors; and phenytoin was recalcitrant in all reactors. Transformation products of sulfamethoxazole and desvenlafaxine resulted in the reformation of their parent compounds during treatment. The results suggest that transformation products must be accounted for when assessing removal efficiencies and that redox environment influences the degree of pharmaceutical loss.