Preventing water crises
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Preventing water crises

Microbial Removal of Drug Pharmaceutical Residues from Organic Sewage Sludge

It is a necessity to pay more attention to the ever increasing pollution of the waters. Conventional waste water treatments are not suitable to remove all the incoming pollutants in the treatment plants. That is the reason why Nyírségvíz Zrt. has started a development program.

According to data in the literature, pharmaceutical agents appear in an ever growing quantity in surface waters, in waste waters and in purified sewage. International literature emphasises the need to focus the risk management strategies on the removal of drugs from sewage and to give a major role to microorganisms in the removal of drug residues.

The majority of the pharmaceutical agents is discarded with urine and accumulate in sewage. Drug residues getting into the living water adversely affect living organisms and the ecological balance through the food-chain, too.

Pharmaceutical agents appear in an ever growing quantity in surface waters and in waste waters Photo: Shutterstock

In its innovative development project, Nyírségvíz Zrt. set the target to examine the possibility of the removal of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and pain-killer drug agents concentrated in sewage with the help of microorganisms, and in addition to incorporate this method into the state-of-the-art technologies using organic sludge. The quantity of drugs taken by the population and their environmental persistence was taken into consideration in the process of choosing the agents. Based on these factors the tests focused on the agents ibuprofen, diclofenac, ketoprofen and naproxen.

According to the literature and the results of own initial state tests, microorganisms which remove the drug agents are already present in sewage systems. In the course of the project those microbes were selected, isolated and later tested in laboratories which have proved to be effective in removing the drug agents. Following the determination of their optimal ratio, the bacteria were propagated and returned to the system.

Microorganisms which remove the drug agents are already present in sewage systems Photo: Shutterstock

The pilot plant equipment is a steel structure with a 10 m³ capacity mixed-base, continuous-flow, excess sludge removing system built by Nyírségvíz Zrt. Following the successful pilot plant results, the experiment was continued in an operational environment in the sewage plant in Levelek which has a daily capacity of 660 m³. According to the measurements, the effectiveness of the activities of microorganisms in removing the tested agents was on average >90%, and further tests proved the stability and sustainability of the procedure.

The results of the tests show that the concentration of agents during the process of sludge treatment demonstrates a progressively decreasing tendency. In the prepared compost the amount of all tested agents is under the detection limit.

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