Removal of pharmaceutical metabolites in wastewater ozonation including their fate in different post-treatments

Suman Kharel, Michael Stapf, Ulf Miehe, Maja Ekblad, Michael Cimbritz, Per Falås, Josefine Nilsson, Robert Sehlén, Jeppe Bregendahl, Kai Bester

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Advanced treatment technologies for the removal of pharmaceuticals and other organic micropollutants in WWTPs primarily target the removal of parent compounds. Nevertheless, the removal of metabolites originating from human- or microbial metabolism during biological treatment needs comparable consideration, as some of them might be present in high concentrations and contribute to toxicity. This study was conducted to elucidate the removal of human and microbial metabolites of pharmaceuticals as a function of the specific ozone dose. Ozonation was performed on four sites with two pilot- and two full-scale plants operated downstream of conventional activated sludge plants. The ozone reactivity of all metabolites (expressed as the ozone dose to remove 90% of the compound/decadic ozone dose) was lower than those of their parent compounds. The decadic ozone dose was 1.0, 1.3 and 1.1 mg O3/mg DOC for Epoxy-carbamazepine, Di-OH-carbamazepine and N-Desmethyl tramadol, respectively. 20–40% of the remaining metabolites were removed in a polishing sand/BAC-filter (biological activated carbon). Similar removal was observed for Epoxy-carbamazepine, Di-OH-carbamazepine and Hydroxy-diclofenac in a constructed wetland. However, the sand/anthracite filter had no effect. All four metabolites were removed in a GAC (granulated activated carbon) filter.

Original languageEnglish
Article number143989
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Environmental Sciences
  • Water Treatment

Free keywords

  • Ozonation
  • Pharmaceutical metabolites
  • Post-treatment
  • Removal
  • Wastewater


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