Removal of hormones and pharmaceuticals in the Advanced Water Recycling Demonstration Plant in Queensland, Australia

10 November 2010

An advanced water recycling demonstration plant was employed to investigate the effectiveness of a number of treatment technologies in the removal of some residuals of commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals as well as natural and synthetic hormones found in sewage. Analysis of targeted compounds was carried out by solid-phase extraction (SPE) and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Initial tests were undertaken to determine the background concentrations of the analytes during various stages of treatment. Subsequent tests, undertaken by spiking with standard solutions of the target compounds provided further information on the removal efficiencies of some selected treatment modules. The results of the study indicate that while ozonation, microfiltration and nanofiltration were partially effective; treatment by reverse osmosis was the most universally successful in the removal of the target residuals. While significantly more data is required for a full evaluation, this initial investigation suggests that reverse osmosis may be an effective means of removing a wider range of pharmaceutically active residuals and hormones from treated sewage.