American Society of Civil Engineers

Treatment of High-Strength Pharmaceutical Wastewater and Removal of Antibiotics in Anaerobic and Aerobic Biological Treatment Processes

by Ping Zhou, (corresponding author), M.ASCE, (Postdoctoral Res. Assoc., Envir. Sci. Div., Oak Ridge Natl. Lab., P.O. Box 2008, MS 6036, Oak Ridge, TN 37831 E-mail:, Chengyi Su, (Grad. Student, Dept. of Envir. Sci. and Engrg., Tsinghua Univ., Beijing 100084, China. E-mail:, Binwei Li, (Res. Staff, Chinese Res. Academy of Envir. Sci., Beijing 100085, China. E-mail:, and Yi Qian, (Prof., Dept. of Envir. Sci. and Engrg., Tsinghua Univ., Beijing 100084, China. E-mail:

Journal of Environmental Engineering, Vol. 132, No. 1, January 2006, pp. 129-136, (doi:

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Document type: Journal Paper
Abstract: Anaerobic and aerobic treatment of high-strength pharmaceutical wastewater was evaluated in this study. A batch test was performed to study the biodegradability of the wastewater, and the result indicated that a combination anaerobic-aerobic treatment system was effective in removing organic matter from the high-strength pharmaceutical wastewater. Based on the batch test, a pilot-scale system composed of an anaerobic baffled reactor followed by a biofilm airlift suspension reactor was designed. At a stable operational period, effluent chemical oxygen demand (COD) from the anaerobic baffled reactor ranged from 1,432 to 2,397 mg/L at a hydraulic retention time (HRT) of 1.25 day, and 979 to 1,749 mg/L at an HRT of 2.5 day, respectively, when influent COD ranged from 9,736 to 19,862 mg/L. As a result, effluent COD of the biofilm airlift suspension reactor varied between 256 and 355 mg/L at HRTs of from 5.0 to 12.5 h. The antibiotics ampicillin and aureomycin, with influent concentrations of 3.2 and 1.0 mg/L, respectively, could be partially degraded in the anaerobic baffled reactor: ampicillin and aureomycin removal efficiencies were 16.4 and 25.9% with an HRT of 1.25 day, and 42.1 and 31.3% with HRT of 2.5 day, respectively. Although effective in COD removal, the biofilm airlift suspension reactor did not display significant antibiotic removal, and the removal efficiencies of the two antibiotics were less than 10%.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Aerobic treatment
Biological processes
Industrial wastes
Wastewater management