Journal article

Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs) in Effluent Matrices: A Survey of Transformation and Removal during Wastewater Treatment and Implications for Wastewater Management

Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) represent pollutants of emerging concern, originating in surface and drinking waters largely from their persistence in wastewater effluent. Accordingly, a wealth of recent investigations has examined PPCP fate during wastewater treatment, focusing on their removal during conventional (e.g., activated sludge) and advanced (e.g., ozonation and membrane filtration) treatment processes. Here, we compile nearly 1500 data from over 40 published sources pertaining to influent and effluent PPCP concentrations measured at pilot- and full-scale wastewater treatment facilities to identify the most effective series of technologies for minimizing effluent PPCP levels. Available data suggest that at best 1-log10 concentration unit (90%) of PPCP removal can be achieved at plants employing only primary and secondary treatment, a performance trend that is maintained over the range of reported PPCP influent concentrations ( 0.1- 10^5 ng/L). Relatively few compounds (15 of 140 PPCPs considered) are consistently removed beyond this threshold at facilities using solids removal and conventional activated sludge (CAS), and most PPCPs are removed to a far lesser extent. Further, increases in CAS hydraulic retention time or sludge retention time do not appreciably increase removal beyond this limit. In contrast, plants employing advanced treatment methodologies, particularly ozonation and/or membranes, remove the vast majority of PPCPs beyond 1-log10 concentration unit and oftentimes to levels below analytical detection limits in effluent. Data also indicate that passive approaches for tertiary treatment (e.g., wetlands and lagoons) represent promising options for PPCP removal. We conclude by addressing future challenges and frontiers in wastewater management posed by PPCPs including analytical needs for their real-time measurement, energy demands associated with advanced treatment technologies, and byproducts arising from transformation of PPCPs during treatment.

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