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Rx for Action

A blog devoted to helping people find local medicine take-back programs and highlighting current research findings and pending legislation.

Sewage lagoons remove most, but not all pharmaceuticals

While sewage treatment lagoons are typically infective at removing nutrients, a new study indicates that they do a fairly good job of removing many (though not all) pharmaceuticals--at least when temperatures are warm. Why is this important? Because in the United States, many rural communities use these lagoons to treat their wastewater rather than the more expensive three-stage sewage treatment plants found in many larger municipalities. Since the water treated by these lagoons is released directly into nearby rivers, we need to understand how effective they are at removing pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs).

The researchers found that the lagoons were less able to remove pharmaceuticals in November than in September. They suggested that the colder temperatures may have reduced the activity of microorganisms responsible for breaking down the chemicals. Despite being effective in removing some pharmaceuticals, the authors point out that their results indicate that the discharge from the lagoons may increase the occurrence and concentration of PPCPs in surrounding waterways, which could impact the local aquatic environment.

Read more about the article here. Or check out the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center for more information on research in this area.

The study can be accessed at:
Xiaolin, L., W. Zheng, and W. R. Kelly. 2013. Occurrence and removal of pharmaceutical and hormone contaminants in rural wastewater treatment lagoons. Science of the Total Environment 445-446:22-28.

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