A partnership study between the University of Buffalo, Stony Brook University, Hampton Roads Sanitation District, and Hazen & Sawyer was published recently in the journal Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology. Funded by New York Sea Grant, this study analyzed a variety of technologies currently in use at seven wastewater treatment plants in the Eastern United States and how effective they were at removing pharmaceuticals from the wastewater.
When measuring the effectiveness of removing medicines such as antibiotics and antidepressants from the wastewater, granular activated carbon and ozonation were particularly promising treatment methods. Both techniques were found to reduce the concentration of pharmaceuticals in the water by more than 95%. “The take-home message here is that we could actually remove most of the pharmaceuticals we studied. That’s the good news. If you really want clean water, there are multiple ways to do it,” says Diana Aga, PhD, Henry M. Woodburn Professor of Chemistry in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences.
The study’s findings could help guide future decision-making for municipalities in water-scarce areas or in cities that are looking to recycle wastewater, even converting it into drinking water. While these treatment technologies can be expensive to implement, some cities have already committed to the high price tag in order to become more environmentally conscious and more effective in their wastewater treatment.
Although wastewater treatment plants were initially designed and operated for purposes such as removing organic matter and nitrogen from used water, new research and other prior studies demonstrate that these facilities could also be harnessed to remove different classes of medicines.
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