Efficiency of Diclofenac Removal Using Activated Sludge in a Dynamic System (SBR Reactor) with Variable Parameters of pH, Concentration, and Sludge Oxygenation

Materials (Basel). 2023 Feb 8;16(4):1422. doi: 10.3390/ma16041422.


Recently, traditional wastewater treatment systems have not been adapted to remove micropollutants, including pharmaceutical substances, which, even at low concentrations, cause adverse changes in aquatic and terrestrial living organisms. The problem of drug residues in the environment has been noticed; however, no universal legal regulations have been established for concentrations of these compounds in treated wastewater. Hence, the aim of the article was to determine the possibility of increasing the efficiency of diclofenac removal from activated sludge using the designed SBR reactor. This study included six cycles, working continuously, where each of them was characterized by changing conditions of pH, oxygenation, and composition of the synthetic medium. In each cycle, three concentrations of diclofenac were analyzed: 1 mg/L, 5 mg/L, 10 mg/L for the hydraulic retention time (HRT) of 4 d and the sludge retention time (SRT) of 12 d. The highest removal efficiency was achieved in the first test cycle for pH of natural sediment at the level of 6.7-7.0 (>97%), and in the third test cycle at pH stabilized at 6.5 (>87%). The reduced content of easily assimilable carbon from synthetic medium indicated a removal of >50%, which suggests that carbon in the structure of diclofenac restrained microorganisms to the rapid assimilation of this element. Under half-aerobic conditions, the drug removal effect for a concentration of 10 mg/L was slightly above 60%.

Keywords: SBR reactors; activated sludge; diclofenac; pH; wastewater treatment.