Assessing emerging wastewater regulations to minimize the risk from pharmaceuticals and personal care products Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Purpose – Pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) and phosphorus are pollutants that can cause a wide array of negative environmental impacts. Phosphorus is a regulated pollutant in many industrial countries, while PPCPs are widely unregulated. Many technologies designed to remove phosphorus from wastewater can remove PPCPs, therefore the purpose of this paper is to explore the ability of these technologies to also reduce the emission of unregulated PPCPs. Design/methodology/approach – Through meta-analysis, the authors use the PPCPs’ risk quotient (RQ) to measure and compare the effectiveness of different wastewater treatment technologies. The RQ data are then applied via a case study that uses phosphorus effluent regulations to determine the ability of the recommended technologies to also mitigate PPCPs. Findings – The tertiary membrane bioreactor and nanofiltration processes recommended to remove phosphorus can reduce the median RQ from PPCPs by 71 and 81 percent, respectively. The ultrafiltration technology was estimated to reduce the median RQ from PPCPs by 28 percent with no cost in addition to the costs expected under the current phosphorus effluent regulations. RQ reduction is expected with a membrane bioreactor and the cost of upgrading to this technology was found to be $11.76 per capita/year. Practical implications – The authors discuss the management implications, including watershed management, alternative PPCPs reduction strategies, and water quality trading. Originality/value – The evaluation of the co-management of priority and emerging pollutants illuminates how the removal of regulated pollutants from wastewater could significantly reduce the emission of unregulated PPCPs.

publication date

  • September 14, 2015