Removal of Pharmaceuticals and Illicit Drugs from Wastewater Due to Ferric Dosing in Sewers
Ferric (Fe3+) salt dosing is an efficient sulfide control strategy in the sewer network, with potential for multiple benefits including phosphorus removal in the biological reactors and sulfide emission control in the anaerobic digesters of wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). This paper extends the knowledge on the benefit of iron dosing by exploring its impact on the fate of organic micropollutants (MPs) in the wastewater using sewer reactors simulating a rising main sewer pipe. The sulfide produced by the sewer biofilms reacted with Fe3+ forming black colored iron sulfide (FeS). Among the selected MPs, morphine, methadone, and atenolol had >90% initial rapid removal within 5 min of ferric dosing in the sewer reactor. The ultimate removal after 6 h of retention time in the reactor reached 93-97%. Other compounds, ketamine, codeine, carbamazepine, and acesulfame had 30-70% concentration decrease. The ultimate removal varied between 35 and 70% depending on the biodegradability of those MPs. In contrast, paracetamol had no initial removal. The rapid removal of MPs was likely due to adsorption to the FeS surface, which is further confirmed by batch tests with different FeS concentrations. The results showed a direct relationship between the removal of MPs and FeS concentration. The transformation kinetics of these compounds in the reactor without Fe3+ dosing is in good agreement with biodegradation associated with the sewer biofilms in the reactor. This study revealed a significant additional benefit of dosing ferric salts in sewers, that is, the removal of MPs before the sewage enters the WWTP.