Canadian Consulting Engineer

Sechelt tests method for removing pharmaceuticals from wastewater

February 4, 2015

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is giving almost $170,000 to a water resource centre in Sechelt, a city of 8,400 people along the Sunshine Coast north of Vancouver, to test a method for removing hormones, pharmaceuticals and other endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs) from wastewater.
The field test will be conducted at the Sechelt Water Resource Centre. It is an advanced wastewater treatment facility designed to produce water suitable for intensive agriculture, industrial uses and for irrigating recreational and public areas.
The first part of the field test will make biochar, a specialized form of charcoal, from the wastewater biosolids. The charring process is expected to destroy any EDCs in the biosolids.
The second part will use the resulting biochar to filter the reclaimed water, capturing and biodegrading the EDCs. The performance of the biochar will be compared to conventional filter media such as activated carbon.
Concerns over growing levels of drugs and personal products present in water bodies such as lakes and rivers are increasing. Currently most wastewater treatment plants in Canada do not remove pharmaceuticals, nor are there any Canadian national standards for them relating to water quality.
An article by Kelly Crowe was published by CBC News last year: “Drinking water contaminated by excreted drugs a growing concern.” Crowe reported on several studies, including in 2013 of the Great Lakes that detected drugs at levels of “environmental concern.” The drugs detected included acacetaminophen, codeine, antibiotics, hormones, steroids, and anti-epileptic compounds, and dozens of other chemicals that people ingest and then pass into our wastewater systems.
The article also mentions that pharmaceutical consumption is going up between 10 and 15 per cent a year.
If the field test in Sechelt is successful, the centre will work to scale up the technology as part of a reclaimed water system. It will be looking for opportunities to commercialize the technology for use by other communities. The FCM funding is from its Green Municipal Fund, which is partly funded by the federal government.
To read the CBC article published on September 22, 2014, click here.


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