Individual treatment processes like biological treatment or ozonation have their limitations for the removal of pharmaceuticals from secondary clarified effluents with high organic matter concentrations (i.e. 17 mg TOC/L). These limitations can be overcome by combining these two processes for a cost-effective pharmaceutical removal. A three-step biological-ozone-biological (BO3B) treatment process was therefore designed for the enhanced pharmaceutical removal from wastewater effluent. The first biological step removed 38% of ozone scavenging TOC, thus proportionally reducing the absolute ozone input for the subsequent ozonation. Complementariness between biological and ozone treatment, i.e. targeting different pharmaceuticals, resulted in cost-effective pharmaceutical removal by the overall BO3B process. At a low ozone dose of 0.2 g O3/g TOC and an HRT of 1.46 h in the biological reactors, the removal of 8 out of 9 pharmaceuticals exceeded 85%, except for metoprolol (60%). Testing various ozone doses and HRTs revealed that pharmaceuticals were ineffectively removed at 0.1 g O3/g TOC and an HRT of 0.3 h. At HRTs of 0.47 and 1.46 h easily and moderately biodegradable pharmaceuticals such as caffeine, gemfibrozil, ibuprofen, naproxen and sulfamethoxazole were over 95% removed by biological treatment. The biorecalcitrant carbamazepine was completely ozonated at a dose of 0.4 g O3/g TOC. Ozonation products are likely biodegraded in the last biological reactor as a 17% TOC removal was found. No appreciable acute toxicity towards D. magna, P. subcapitata and V. fischeri was found after exposure to the influents and effluents of the individual BO3B reactors. The BO3B process is estimated to increase the yearly wastewater treatment tariff per population equivalent in the Netherlands by less than 10%. Overall, the BO3B process is a cost-effective treatment process for the removal of pharmaceuticals from secondary clarified effluents.
- Combined treatment