Fate of Pharmaceuticals during Wastewater Treatment by a Membrane Bioreactor

Trang Trinh, Ben van den Akker, Heather M. Coleman, Richard Stuetz, Pierre Le-Clech, Stuart Khan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study provides a comprehensive insight into the levels and fate of nine commonly used pharmaceuticals(amitriptyline, atenolol, gemfi brozil, ibuprofen, ketoprofen, metformin, naproxen, paracetamol and simvastatin)through a full-scale membrane bioreactor (MBR) in New South Wales, Australia. Seven out of the ninestudied pharmaceuticals were detected in the raw sewage with average concentrations in the range of 1.29–33.3 μg.L–1, while gemfi brozil and simvastatin were below the analytical detection limit (1 ng.L–1). The MBRconsistently achieved high removal effi ciencies of the detected pharmaceuticals, in the range of 77.2–99.9 %.A mass-balance showed that sorption to biomass was the dominant removal mechanism for amitriptylinewhile biodegradation/transformation was responsible for removing all other pharmaceuticals. This studyrevealed that log D (Log Kow corrected for ionisation at the ambient pH) provides an effective estimation of thesorption capacity of these pharmaceuticals to biomass.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-102
JournalGWF Wasser/Abwasser Journal, INternational Issue
Issue number152
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Feb 2011


  • Wastewater treatment
  • membrane bioreactor
  • trace organic contaminants
  • pharmaceuticals


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