The behaviour of nine pharmaceutically active compounds (PhACs) of different diagnostic groups is studied during a nitrifying–denitrifying process in an activated sludge system. The compounds selected cover a wide range of frequently used substances such as anti-epileptics (carbamazepine), tranquillisers (diazepam), anti-depressants (fluoxetine and citalopram), anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen, naproxen and diclofenac) and estrogens (estradiol and ethinylestradiol). The main objective of this research is to investigate the effect of acclimation of biomass on the removal rates of these compounds, either by maintaining a high sludge retention time or at long-term operation. The removal rates achieved for nitrogen and carbon in the experimental unit exceed 90% and were not affected by the addition of PhACs. Carbamazepine, diazepam and diclofenac were only removed to a small extent. On the other hand, higher removal rates have been observed for naproxen and ibuprofen (68% and 82%), respectively.

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