The occurrence and removal of 42 pharmaceuticals, belonging to different therapeutic groups (analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-ulcer agent, psychiatric drugs, antiepileptic drug, antibiotics, ß-blockers, diuretics, lipid regulator and cholesterol lowering statin drugs and anti-histamines), were studied in thewastewater and sewage sludge trains of a full scale integrated treatment plant. The plant employs a biological nutrient removal (BNR) process for the treatment of municipal wastewater, and a single-stage mesophilic anaerobic co-digestion for the treatment of wasted activated sludge mixed with the organic fraction ofmunicipal solid waste (OFMSW), followed by a short-cut nitrification–denitrification of the anaerobic supernatant in a sequential batch reactor. Influent and effluent wastewater, as well as thickened, digested and treated sludge were sampled and analyzed for the selected pharmaceuticals in order to study their presence and fate during the treatment. Twenty three compounds were detected in influent and effluent wastewater and eleven in sludge. Infiltration of groundwater in the sewer system led to a dilution of raw sewage, resulting in lower concentrations in wastewater (up to 0.7μg/L in influent) and sludge (70ng/g d.w.). Due to the dilution, overall risk quotient for the mixture of pharmaceuticals detected in effluent wastewater was less than one, indicating no direct risk for the aquatic environment. A wide range of removal efficiencies during the treatment was observed, i.e. b20% to 90%. The influent concentrations of the target pharmaceuticals, as polar compounds, were undoubtedly mostly affected by BNR process in the wastewater train, and less by anaerobic-co-digestion.Mass balance calculations showed that less than 2% of the total mass load of the studied pharmaceuticals was removed by sorption. Experimentally estimated distribution coefficients (b500L/kg) also indicated that the selected pharmaceuticals preferably remain in the aqueous phase, and that biodegradation/ transformation is the primary removal mechanism for these compounds during wastewater treatment.
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