Towards application of activated carbon treatment for pharmaceutical removal in municipal wastewater

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract: Many pharmaceuticals are found in municipal wastewater effluents due to their persistence in the human body as well as in conventional wastewater treatment processes. This discharge to the environment can lead to adverse effects in aquatic species, such as feminization of male fish. During the past decade, these findings have spawned investigations and research into suitable treatment technologies that could severely limit the discharge. Adsorption onto activated carbon has been identified as one of the two main technologies for implementation of (future) full-scale treatment.Recent research has put a closer focus on adsorption with powdered activated carbon (PAC) than on granular activated carbon (GAC). Studies where both methods are compared in parallel operation are thus still scarce and such evaluation in pilot-scale was therefore a primary objective of this thesis. Furthermore, recirculation of PAC can be used to optimize the treatment regarding the carbon consumption. Such a setup was evaluated as a separate treatment stage to comply with Swedish wastewater convention. Additionally, variation of a set of process parameters was evaluated.During successive operation at three different wastewater treatment plants an overall pharmaceutical removal of 95% could consistently be achieved with both methods. Furthermore, treatment with GAC was sensitive to a degraded effluent quality, which severely reduced the hydraulic capacity. Both treatment methods showed efficient removal of previously highlighted substances, such as carbamazepine and diclofenac, however in general a lower adsorption capacity was observed for GAC. By varying the input of process parameters, such as the continuously added dose or the contact time, during PAC treatment, a responsive change of the pharmaceutical removal could be achieved. The work in this thesis contributes some valuable field experience towards wider application of these treatment technologies in full-scale.