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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

Pharmaceuticals in source separated sanitation systems: Fecal sludge and blackwater treatment

Gros, Meritxell; Ahrens, Lutz; Leven, Lotta; Koch, Alina; Dalahmeh, Sahar; Ljung, Emelie; Lundin, Goran; Jonsson, Hakan; Eveborn, David; Wiberg, Karin


This study investigated, for the first time, the occurrence and fate of 29 multiple-class pharmaceuticals (PhACs) in two source separated sanitation systems based on: (i) batch experiments for the anaerobic digestion (AD) of fecal sludge under mesophilic (37 `C) and thermophilic (52 "C) conditions, and (ii) a full-scale blackwater treatment plant using wet composting and sanitation with urea addition. Results revealed high concentrations of PhACs in raw fecal sludge and blackwater samples, with concentrations up to hundreds of pg L-1 and fig kg-1 dry weight (dw) in liquid and solid fractions, respectively. For mesophilic and thermophilic treatments in the batch experiments, average PhACs removal rates of 31% and 45%, respectively, were observed. The average removal efficiency was slightly better for the full-scale blackwater treatment, with 49% average removal, and few compounds, such as atenolol, valsartan and hydrochlorothiazide, showed almost complete degradation. In the AD treatments, no significant differences were observed between mesophilic and thermophilic conditions. For the full-scale blackwater treatment, the aerobic wet composting step proved to be the most efficient in PhACs reduction, while urea addition had an almost negligible effect for most PhACs, except for citalopram, venlafaxine, oxazepam, valsartan and atorvastatin, for which minor reductions (on average 25%) were observed. Even though both treatment systems reduced initial PhACs loads considerably, significant PhAC concentrations remained in the treated effluents, indicating that fecal sludge and blackwater fertilizations could be a relevant vector for dissemination of PhACs into agricultural fields and thus the environment. (C) 2019 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Source separation; Sanitation systems; Fecal sludge; Blacicvvater Pharmaceuticals

Published in

Science of the Total Environment
2020, Volume: 703, article number: 135530