Pharmaceuticals or their metabolites are partially excreted with urine or faeces ending up in raw sewage. Many of these substances are not biodegradable and their presence in influents of municipal wastewater treatment plants may cause adverse effects to sensitive biological processes such as nitrification, while on the other hand, they may go through the activated sludge process unreacted. The second step of nitrification, i.e. oxidation of nitrite to nitrate is particularly sensitive. Inhibition of this step under uncontrolled conditions may lead to accumulation of nitrite nitrogen in the plant effluent, a form of nitrogen which is particularly toxic. The effects caused by the presence of seven different pharmaceuticals to a culture of nitrite-oxidizing bacteria isolated from activated sludge are presented. These pharmaceuticals were ofloxacin, propranolol, clofibrate, triclosan, carbamazepine, diclofenac and sulfamethoxazole. Different effects were observed for each of the pharmaceuticals tested in this study. In the cases of ofloxacin and sulfamethoxazole significant inhibition was observed. Triclosan presented a substantial inhibitory effect on the substrate (nitrite) reduction rate. The long-term effect of triclosan on nitrite oxidizers was also examined in a CSTR reactor and conclusions were drawn regarding the reversibility of the inhibition caused by this compound.

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