Fate of pharmaceuticals in contaminated urban wastewater effluent under ultrasonic irradiation
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The application of sonolysis (US) for remediation of wastewater is an area of increasing interest. The aim of this study was to evaluate the ultrasonic (US) process on the degradation of pharmaceuticals (diclofenac (DCF), amoxicillin (AMX), carbamazepine (CBZ)) in single solutions and also in three mixtures spiked in urban wastewater effluent. Several operating conditions, such as power density (25–100WL−1), initial substrate concentrations (2.5–10mgL−1), initial solution pH (3–11), and air sparging were varied for the evaluation and understanding of the process. The degradation (as assessed by measuring UV absorbance), the generation of hydroxyl radicals (as assessed measuring H2O2 concentration), the mineralization (in terms of TOC and COD removal), and the aerobic biodegradability (as assessed by the BOD5/COD ratio) were monitored during sonication. Ecotoxicity to Daphnia magna, Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata and Lepidium sativum before and after treatment was also evaluated. It was found that the pharmaceuticals conversion is enhanced at increased applied power densities, acidic conditions and in the presence of dissolved air. The reaction rate increases with increasing initial concentration of single pharmaceuticals but it remains constant in the mixtures, indicating different kinetic regimes (i.e. first and zero order respectively). Mineralization is a slow process as reaction by-products are more stable than pharmaceuticals to total oxidationnonetheless, they are also more readily biodegradable. The toxicity of the wastewater samples before and after contamination with pharmaceuticals both in mixtures and in single substance-containing solutions was observed more severely on P. subcapitataa fact that raises concerns in regards to the discharge of such effluents. D. magna displayed less sensitivity compared to P. subcapitata because it belongs in a lower taxonomic species than D. magna. The germination index of L. sativum in the presence of the drugs' mixture was stimulated instead of inducing any toxicity effect and this might be attributed to the fact the sample, laden with very low drug concentrations was able to act as a provider of additional nutrient elements. "