The biodegradation of 10 selected pharmaceuticals by enriched nitrifier cultures with ammonia oxidizing
activity of 30 mg NH4-N/g MLVSS h was investigated under various initial operating conditions such as in the presence of different growth substrates and inhibitors.
The enriched nitrifier culture showed higher degradation of the target pharmaceuticals than the conventional activated sludge. The degradation efficiency of persistent pharmaceuticals such as clofibric acid (CA), diclofenac (DCF), carbamazepine (CBZ), and propyphenazone (PPZ) was increased with the increase in the ammonium concentration.
A higher removal efficiency of CA, DCF, CBZ and PPZ was obtained when organic substrates were added. The contribution of autotrophs and heterotrophs in the biotransformation of the pharmaceuticals by the enriched nitrifier culture was successfully estimated by the addition of inhibitors.
Experimental results showed that the high degradation of IBP and partial degradation of other selected pharmaceuticals were observed in the presence of allylthiourea (ATU), an ammonia monooxygenase inhibitor, reflecting the activity of heterotrophic bacteria, while the results with and without ATU addition showed that the contribution of the nitrification in the degradation of most pharmaceuticals was also dominant.
The results suggest that nitrification can enhance the biotransformation of pharmaceutical substances.
Keywords; Activated sludge, Degradation, Enriched nitrifier culture, Pharmaceuticals