PROJECT Fungi, algae and bacteria for pharmaceutical removal. Treatment of hospital wastewater by fungi (H2PHARMA)


Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO) - CTM 2013-48545-C2




Teresa Vicent - Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB)


Sara Rodríguez-Mozaz




The rapid increase in the use of pharmaceuticals during last years has contributed to the continued presence of these compounds in the environment. After consumption, pharmaceuticals, excreted in their metabolized and not metabolized forms, arrive through wastewater sewers to wastewater treatment plants. Given the inability of conventional wastewater treatment plants in eliminating these compounds, still a high percentage reaches receiving natural waters, where these effluents are discharged. Hospital effluents (HWW), which are usually discharged into the municipal sewer without previous pretreatment, have been identified as one of the main sources of pharmaceutical pollution. In this context, it is necessary to develop alternative wastewater treatments to minimize their input into the environment, especially for those contamination sources that contribute the most, such as hospitals.

The main objective of the project H2PHARMA is to develop alternative biological processes, based on fungi, algae and bacteria for pharmaceutical removal in hospital effluent, and to acquire basic knowledge about the degradation mechanisms that occur in these processes. For this reason, in this project, continuous treatment systems based on fungi will be developed, and their removal efficiency for pharmaceutical will be evaluated taking into account the formation of transformation products of these compounds. Equally, the microbial populations will be characterized in the reactor throughout the process and the ecotoxicological impact of treated effluents will be evaluated. To improve elimination of these compounds, the treatment process will be complemented by filtration and advanced oxidation pre-treatments, assessing not only the effectiveness of the proposed process but also the sustainability of the method used. Finally, the efficacy of algae and bacteria for the treatment of urban wastewater (and, if possible, hospital wastewater) will be explored.

The possible impacts on the environment due to the presence of pharmaceuticals, is being a subject of research interest over the last 15 years. Despite the advances in knowledge about it, there are still many questions and aspects to address. This project aims to generate new scientific and technological information concerning the management and wastewater treatment for the elimination of xenobiotics compounds, exploring the implementation of new tools and technologies to tackle and solve the problem of water pollution.

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