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Water Res. 2009 Feb;43(3):661-8. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2008.11.013. Epub 2008 Nov 27.

Decontamination industrial pharmaceutical wastewater by combining solar photo-Fenton and biological treatment.

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  • 1Plataforma Solar de Almería (CIEMAT), Carretera Senés, km 4, 04200 Tabernas, Almería, Spain.


Characterization and treatment of a real pharmaceutical wastewater containing 775 mg dissolved organic carbon per liter by a solar photo-Fenton/biotreatment were studied. There were also many inorganic compounds present in the matrix. The most important chemical in this wastewater was nalidixic acid (45 mg/L), an antibiotic pertaining to the quinolone group. A Zahn-Wellens test demonstrated that the real bulk organic content of the wastewater was biodegradable, but only after long biomass adaptation; however, the nalidixic acid concentration remained constant, showing that it cannot be biodegraded. An alternative is chemical oxidation (photo-Fenton process) first to enhance biodegradability, followed by a biological treatment (Immobilized Biomass Reactor--IBR). In this case, two studies of photo-Fenton treatment of the real wastewater were performed, one with an excess of H2O2 (kinetic study) and another with controlled H2O2 dosing (biodegradability and toxicity studies). In the kinetic study, nalidixic acid completely disappeared after 190 min. In the other experiment with controlled H2O2, nalidixic acid degradation was complete at 66 mM of H2O2 consumed. Biodegradability and toxicity bioassays showed that photo-Fenton should be performed until total degradation of nalidixic acid before coupling a biological treatment. Analysis of the average oxidation state (AOS) demonstrated the formation of more oxidized intermediates. With this information, the photo-Fenton treatment time (190 min) and H2O2 dose (66 mM) necessary for adequate biodegradability of the wastewater could be determined. An IBR operated in batch mode was able to reduce the remaining DOC to less than 35 mg/L. Ammonium consumption and NO3- generation demonstrated that nitrification was also attained in the IBR. Overall DOC degradation efficiency of the combined photo-Fenton and biological treatment was over 95%, of which 33% correspond to the solar photochemical process and 62% to the biological treatment.

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