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Effects of substrate loading on co-metabolic transformation pathways and removal rates of pharmaceuticals in biofilm reactors

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This study focused on the effects of substrate (raw wastewater) on the biological removal of 20 pharmaceuticals in moving bed biofilm reactors. This is the first study discriminating experimentally between effects of adaptation (45 d) and stimulation (100 h) on the removal of micropollutants. The results presented in this paper show: i) Tramadol and venlafaxine are subject to microbial N-oxidation (besides the known demethylation). ii) Changes in substrate loading, changed the preferential degradation pathways, e.g., from N-oxidation (under starvation) to N-demethylation of both model compounds: tramadol and venlafaxine, during adaptation and stimulation to high substrate supply. iii) In starving biofilms, the effects of stimulation on removal rates are minor (−100 to +150 %) in comparison to those caused by adaptation (−100 to +700 %). iv) Adaptation to high loadings resulted in increased removal rates (up to 700 % in selected cases) v) Adaptation to high loadings followed by high loading of stimulation, resulted in the highest increase of removal rates (+49 % to +1800 %) for hard-to-degrade compounds (e.g., diclofenac). All in all, this study shows that the efficiency of biofilm reactors is heavily dependent on their adaptation to substrate.

Original languageEnglish
Article number158607
JournalScience of the total Environment
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

    Research areas

  • Co-metabolism, Moving bed biofilm reactor, Pharmaceuticals, Rate constant, Transformation product, Wastewater treatment

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