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The removal of pharmaceuticals, personal care products, endocrine disruptors and illicit drugs during wastewater treatment and its impact on the quality of receiving waters

By Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern, Richard M. Dinsdale and Alan J. Guwy


A 5-month monitoring program was undertaken in South Wales in the UK to determine the fate of 55 pharmaceuticals, personal care products, endocrine disruptors and illicit drugs (PPCPs) in two contrasting wastewater plants utilising two different wastewater treatment technologies: activated sludge and trickling filter beds. The impact of treated wastewater effluent on the quality of receiving waters was also assessed. PPCPs were found to be present at high loads reaching 10 kg day−1 in the raw sewage. Concentrations of PPCPs in raw sewage were found to correlate with their usage/consumption patterns in Wales and their metabolism. The efficiency of the removal of PPCPs was found to be strongly dependent on the technology implemented in the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). In general, the WWTP utilising trickling filter beds resulted in, on average, less than 70% removal of all 55 PPCPs studied, while the WWTP utilising activated sludge treatment gave a much higher removal efficiency of over 85%. The monitoring programme revealed that treated wastewater effluents were the main contributors to PPCPs concentrations (up to 3 kg of PPCPs day−1) in the rivers studied. Bearing in mind that in the cases examined here the WWTP effluents were also major contributors to rivers' flows (dilution factor for the studied rivers did not exceed 23 times) the effect of WWTP effluent on the quality of river water is significant and cannot be underestimated

Topics: Q1, GE
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2009
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.watres.2008.10.047
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