Effect of anaerobic digestion at 35, 55 and 60 °C ON pharmaceuticals and organic pollutants

Å. Davidsson, H. Kjerstadius, S. Haghighatafshar, J. Fick, Eva Eriksson, Mikael Emil Olsson, H. Wachtmeister, J. la Cour Jansen

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The application of treated sewage sludge on farmland is a suggested method for recycling nutrients and reducing demand for commercial fertilizer. However sludge needs to be rendered safe from possible contaminants which can cause acute and long-term health and environmental problems. Residual pharmaceuticals and organic contaminants in sludge are mentioned as emerging threats since wastewater treatment plants are not designed to degrade these substances thus yielding an accumulation in sludge. The aim of this study was to evaluate the presence, and reduction, of pharmaceuticals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) during anaerobic digestion at 35, 55 and 60ºC and during pasteurization at 70°C. The substrate used was mixed primary and secondary sludge from a 300 000 person-equivalents municipal wastewater treatment plant in southern Sweden. In general no reduction of pharmaceuticals could be observed at any temperature or minimum exposure time, except for the beta-blocker Irbesartan and the antibiotic Trimethoprim. The results from pharmaceuticals in mesophilic sludge agreed with results in recent Swedish studies. Also, no reduction of PAHs during digestion or pasteurization (70°C – 1 hour) was seen, but for single PAHs digestion could lead to reduction.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2013
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Event1st International IWA Conference on Holistic Sludge Management - Västerås, Sweden
Duration: 6 May 20138 May 2013
Conference number: 1


Conference1st International IWA Conference on Holistic Sludge Management
Internet address


  • Anaerobic digestion
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Sludge
  • Organic contaminants
  • Wastewater treatment


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