Removing medicines from wastewater
The pollution of water due to medicine is a growing problem and has become a priority issue amongst legislators and, consequently, for water companies and authorities. Many medicines end up in wastewater because the human body releases medicine that has not been taken up by the body.
Sibelco, as part of a project subsidized by the Dutch Government*, played a significant role in developing a solution to remove pharmaceuticals from wastewater, thereby providing safer drinking water and reducing the impact on the environment.
As the purification process at sewage or communal wastewater treatment plants was not originally designed for the removal of such substances, only a maximum of 70 per cent of the medicines can be removed in a standard treatment process (STP). The remaining 30 per cent is discharged into surface water, which can have negative consequences for the environment as it interacts with other organisms. It is also critical that these substances are removed if the surface water is to be used as drinking water.
Sibelco joined a consortium** to develop and trial a material called CatchAmed – an adsorbent which is added at the source where the human body excretes the unused medicine (that is, the toilet) and binds them together in water. The loaded adsorbent then ends up in the waste water at a standard treatment plant, where it can easily be removed because of the big difference in weight.
Two pilot studies were conducted; one at the University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht where CatchAmed was used on waste water samples taken from toilets, kitchens and showers in the building, and a second in an office building of the Water Board. Both pilots confirmed that CatchAmed can function well in a complex matrix, such as hospital waste water.
Now that the concept has been proven, Sibelco has applied for a patent and will then enter the next stage of translating this concept into a product that can be brought to the water treatment plant.
Read a detailed article on this project on H2O online (in Dutch only).
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*This project was partly realised with a subsidy from the Top Consortia for Knowledge and Innovation (TKIs) program of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate.
**In addition to Sibelco, the consortium of parties involved in this project are the KWR Watercycle Research Institute, Limburg Water Authority Company (WBL), Limburg Water Authority (WL), Water Authority Hoogheemraadschad De Stichtse Rijnlanden (HDSR) and the University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht.