Pharmaceutically active compounds and hormone removal at the advanced water recycling demonstration plant
The Queensland Government in 2000 commissioned the Advanced Water Recycling Demonstration Plant (A WRDP) as part of the Queensland Water Recycling Strategy. The modular pilot-scale design of the plant provided an opportunity to investigate the effectiveness of some advanced water recycling treatment technologies to remove some residuals of commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals as well as natural and synthetic hormones found in sewage. Samples were collected from the effluent of each of the treatment modules and analysed for selected pharmaceuticals and hormones. These initial tests were undertaken to determine the background concentrations of the target compounds during various stages of treatment. Subsequent tests, undertaken by spiking with standard solutions of the target compounds provided further information on the removal efficiencies of some selected treatment modules. Analysis of targeted pharmaceuticals was then carried out by solid-phase extraction (SPE) and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) analysis. The results of the study indicate that while ozonation, microfiltration and nanofiltration were partially effective; treatment by reverse osmosis was the most universally successful in the removal of the seven target pharmaceutical and three hormone residuals. While significantly more data is required for a full evaluation, this initial investigation suggests that reverse osmosis may be an effective means of removing a wider range of pharmaceutically active residuals and hormones from treated sewage. Removal is not complete for all compounds, however. Other technologies such as microfiltration and nanofiltration appear to have limited application. The use and effectiveness of ozonation needs more investigation to examine its role for the degradation and removal of pharmaceutical compounds.