Treatment of Metformin-Containing Wastewater by a Hybrid Vertical Anaerobic Biofilm-Reactor (HyVAB)

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Oct 25;16(21):4125. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16214125.


Several series of batch and continuous experiments were performed to investigate the removal of metformin and other contaminants from two wastewaters: wastewater I (WWI) containing 4 mg/L metformin and wastewater II (WWII) containing 110 g/L butanol. Biomethane potential (BMP) tests on WWII showed 77% of total chemical oxygen demand (tCOD = 110 g/L) degradability, and no apparent inhibition effects were observed. BMP tests on WWI showed an apparent inhibitory effect reflected in lower biogas production with increasing metformin concentration in the wastewater. Continuous flow hybrid vertical anaerobic biofilm (HyVAB®) experiments were consistent with the batch test findings. It was necessary to co-digest WWI (metformin) with WWII (easily degradable organics) to achieve complete metformin removal. After a period of adaptation, WWI and WWII co-digestion achieved up to 98% tCOD removal and 100% metformin removal. Most of the contaminants were removed in the anaerobic section of the HyVAB®, which implies that higher chemical oxygen demand (COD) loads than tested here are possible, given some optimization. The pilot reactor was able to manage organic loads of 11 g COD/d and above 10 mg/L metformin with a removal of 98% and 100% for tCOD and metformin, respectively.

Keywords: CFIC; anaerobic digestion; biofilm; integrated biological system; metformin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anaerobiosis
  • Biofilms*
  • Biological Oxygen Demand Analysis
  • Bioreactors*
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / isolation & purification*
  • Metformin / isolation & purification*
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid
  • Wastewater / chemistry*
  • Water Purification*


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Waste Water
  • Metformin