The presence of organic micro-pollutants, (pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, etc.) in the environment is a problem that has caused great social and scientific concern in the last years. Pharmaceuticals active compounds (PhACs) are being used at an increasing rate, and end up in wastewater through excretion and disposal. They also end up in the effluent water of wastewater treatment plants because they are not specifically designed for pharmaceutical removal. Besides direct WWTP discharges that are usually a consequence of the incomplete removal of PhACs, other environmental exposure pathways are manufacturing and hospital effluents, land applications (e.g., biosolids and water reuse), and direct disposal/introduction to environment. Due to their continuous input into the aquatic media through wastewater as a main point-source, PhACs are considered to be “pseudo-persistent”. Additionally, hospital wastewater contains PhAC such antibiotics, x-ray contrast and other organic substances that are resistant to biological degradation and can create antibiotic resistance. The contact of hospital pollutants with aquatic ecosystems leads to a risk directly related to the existence of hazardous substances, which could have potential negative effects on the biological balance of natural environments. Therefore, considering the ubiquity and persistence of PhACs, incomplete wastewater treatment might increase the ecotoxicological risk for the environment and eventually humans.
The Research Laboratory of Envrironmental Technologies and research collaborates, University of Ioannina, have studied thoroughly the occurrence of pharmaceutical compounds in municipal and hospital wastewaters. The compounds investigated include frequently used pharmaceuticals belonging to various therapeutic categories, i.e., the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, NSAID’s drugs, antibiotics, antihyperlipidemics, antidepressants, analgesic/antipyretic and disinfectants. The selected areas of the study were the municipal and hospital wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) of Ioannina city. The results of the monitoring study, showed the occurrence of various target compounds in the wastewater samples.
In light of these facts, advanced wastewater treatment options should be considered for removal of PhACs from urban, hospital and/or industrial wastewaters. There is a need for efficient treatment options which can effectively reduce/alter/modify the recalcitrance/toxicity profile of the wastewater. One of the possible strategies for up-grading treatment in DWTPs and WWTPs is the application of advanced oxidation processes (AOPs) such as Photocatalytic Oxidation (TiO2, Photo-Fenton) which constitute a promising technology for the treatment of wastewaters containing non-biodegradable organic compounds. The major advantage of the photocatalytic oxidation based processes are operation at ambient temperature and the possibility to effectively use sunlight or near UV for irradiation, which could result in considerable economic savings especially for large-scale operations. Moreover, AOPs can be installed either as tertiary treatment after the biological (secondary) treatment of wastewater, or as pre-treatment stage in order to enhance the biodegradability of trace organic contaminants. The technology of solar photochemical detoxification can provide in the industry of management of environmental wastes a new powerful tool for the complete degradation of toxic residues, using clean energy from the sun.
In conclusion, the aim of the proposed project is the assessment of the current concentration levels of PhACs in hospital wastewaters, the current needs for the treatment of hospital effluents and the development of an efficient and competitive technology of water treatment for the removal of organic micropollutants such as pharmaceuticals and the wastewater detoxification. This methodology would be complementary to the conventional methods that often are ineffective. The proposed methodology will be examined in a pilot plant system installed in hospital wastewater treatment plants of Ioannina and Vlore with final aim the wide scale applications and implementation.
The overall project objective is to establish an innovative mechanism for the secondary treatment of hospital wastewaters in Ioannina and Vlore hospitals with the use of advanced oxidation processes. Specific objectives of the project include:
Monitoring of pharmaceutical compounds in wastewater treatment plants (University Hospital of Ioannina and Hospital of Vlore) as well as in receiving water bodies and risk assessment for the concentration levels detected on the aquatic food chain (Phytoplankton, zooplankton and fish).
Design and development of pilot plan based on photocatalytic reactors for the complete degradation of selected pharmaceutical compounds persisted in the effluents of wastewater treatment plants after biological treatment step. Construction of the photoreactors’ pilot plan in both pilot sites.
Optimization of operation parameters (e.g. dose of catalysts, flow rates, pH adjustment, time of operation, etc.) for achieving the maximum removal of the studied pharmaceutical compounds.
Final validation of operation of pilot system for the removal of pharmaceuticals from waters water treatment plants.
MoU establishment between the partners participating in the project regarding the sustainability of the project results and the incorporation of the proposed mechanisms to other relevant wastewater treatment plants.
MEET THE PARTNERS
The PhaRem Project is a collaboration of 6 partners.
University of Ioannina, Decentralised Administration os Epirus and West Macedonia,University Hospital of Ioannina, University "ISMAIL QEMALI" Vlore, Regional Council of Vlore, Regional Hospital of Vlore.