Removal of Pharmaceuticals and Phosphorus in the Treatment Process

Large quantities of phosphate present in wastewater is one of the main causes of eutrophication that negatively affects fresh water. It is desirable that water treatment facilities remove phosphorus from the wastewater before it is returned to the environment. There have been many studies conducted about different methods on the removal of phosphate and pharmaceuticals. They vary from physical removal, such as membrane technology, to chemical removal, such as precipitation. Recently, I came across a study that was conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the Veolia Water Solutions and Technologies Co., which showed successful removal of pharmaceuticals and phosphorus from wastewater using its Actiflo™ Carb technology. Over the course of the eight-week study, the presence of phosphorus and a variety of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), ranging from ointments to medications were monitored after adding Actiflo™ Carb to the traditional wastewater treatment process. With the use of this product, 75 percent of the selected PPCPs were removed from the wastewater system. Furthermore, phosphorus was reduced to a concentration of .05mg/L or less, well below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory limit of 1.0mg/L.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee collected samples at different times over the course of a year prior to the use of this process and found that significant trace organic compounds (TOrCs) were still present in the wastewater, even after a secondary treatment process had been completed. Since treated wastewater effluent is directly discharged into local watersheds it must be safe for all other water uses, such as fishing, swimming and municipal drinking water supply. Given the importance of proper treatment and changes in technology, it is important that wastewater facilities explore options that may help them in their treatment process.

The article about this technology can be found on the WaterWorld website here. For more information about the Actiflo™ Carb process, please visit the website at and

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