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New technology removes 75% of pharmaceuticals in wastewater
Veolia Water North America announced study findings that showed the successful removal of pharmaceuticals and phosphorus from wastewater using its Actiflo Carb technology. Over the course of an eight-week study, the presence of phosphorus and a variety of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), ranging from ointments to medications, were monitored after adding Actiflo Carb to the traditional wastewater treatment process. With the use of Actiflo Carb, 75% of the selected PPCPs were removed from the wastewater. Additionally, phosphorus was reduced to a concentration of 0.05 mg/L or less, well below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory limit set at 1.0 mg/L.
As part of a multi-year partnership with a team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), the Actiflo Carb study was conducted by process engineers from Veolia Water and its subsidiary Kruger Inc., with the support of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) and the Water Environment Research Foundation. The study was released at the annual WEFTEC conference and coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act.
"There is mounting concern across the U.S. about the impact of trace organics, such as hormones and pharmaceuticals, in our water systems and the potential threats they pose on human health, wildlife and the environment," said Dr. Rebecca Klaper, the lead scientist from UWM who worked on the study. "This research showed that when Actiflo Carb is added to a wastewater treatment process, it removes a significant portion of the pharmaceuticals tested."
By examining water samples collected at different times over the course of a one-year period between 2009 and 2010, the first phase of the project concluded that a significant concentration of several trace organic compounds (TOrCs) were still present in the wastewater even after a secondary treatment process had been completed. Since treated wastewater effluent discharged into the environment must be safe for all other water uses—including fishing, swimming, recreation and municipal drinking water supply—minimizing the discharge of TOrCs is critical.
Results from the first phase prompted Veolia Water and MMSD to launch a pilot study to apply a new technology, Actiflo Carb, to treat the secondary effluent. Actiflo Carb is a high-rate clarification technology that relies on powdered activated carbon, which is known for its ability to remove pesticides, taste-and-odor-causing compounds, natural organic matter and many types of TOrCs from water and wastewater.
"Actiflo Carb goes beyond conventional processes in its ability to remove phosphorous, pharmaceuticals and other trace organics found in ever-larger quantities in our water supply," explained Jim Hurst, Veolia Water North America's chief technical officer. "We believe it will give wastewater facilities a way to stretch their treatment dollars while dramatically reducing pollution levels and achieving better water quality. The Clean Water Act initiated efforts to reduce water pollution in the U.S., and now this technology can take those efforts even further by addressing one of today's emerging water pollution issues."
After the second phase of the project was completed in late 2011, research findings revealed the average TOrCs removal rate across all compounds using Actiflo Carb reached 75%, thus acting as an efficient barrier for tertiary wastewater treatment. Results exceeded initial estimates in terms of the product's ability to target phosphorous removal at the same time as TOrCs. Additionally, its relatively small footprint and reasonable cost for tertiary treatment allows the technology to be readily integrated into many existing wastewater treatment facilities. The pilot program results are indicative of how Actiflo Carb can help a facility comply with even the most rigorous environmental standards without a significant impact to ratepayers.