Antibiotics in water treatment: the role of water quality conditions on their fate and removal during chlorination and nanofiltration
Shah, Amisha D.
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Antibiotics are a group of compounds used in large quantities for both human therapy and animal food production. In recent years, antibiotics have been detected at low levels (up to μg/L) in wastewater effluents and surface waters in the US, Canada, and parts of Europe. The presence of such contaminants in the environment is of concern due to their potential to promote bacterial resistance as well as to trigger long-term adverse human health effects. Chemical disinfection, one of essential water treatment processes, may aid in their removal but may also form byproducts that can remain biologically active. Nanofiltration is another water treatment process that may provide an effective physical barrier for these contaminants. The goal of this study was to understand the effect chlorination and nanofiltration processes have on the fate of select antibiotics during water treatment, especially under varying water quality conditions. Changes in pH were found to significantly influence the reaction rate of one veterinary antibiotic, carbadox, with aqueous chlorine while also influencing the byproducts formed. The pH was also found to significantly alter the removal efficiency of several antibiotics by different nanofiltration membranes of varying pore size in which dependence was mechanistically investigated using transport models. In addition, the presence of tertiary amines was found to enhance transformation of antibiotics during chlorination. Overall, fundamental understanding regarding their fate during such water treatment processes will help industries develop better strategies for effectively controlling this emerging group of contaminants.