Effects of sewer conditions on the degradation of selected illicit drug residues in wastewater

Thai, Phong K., Jiang, Guangming, Gernjak, Wolfgang, Yuan, Zhiguo, Lai, Foon Yin and Mueller, Jochen F. (2014) Effects of sewer conditions on the degradation of selected illicit drug residues in wastewater. Water Research, 48 1: 538-547. doi:10.1016/j.watres.2013.10.019

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Author Thai, Phong K.
Jiang, Guangming
Gernjak, Wolfgang
Yuan, Zhiguo
Lai, Foon Yin
Mueller, Jochen F.
Title Effects of sewer conditions on the degradation of selected illicit drug residues in wastewater
Journal name Water Research   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0043-1354
Publication date 2014-01-01
Year available 2013
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.watres.2013.10.019
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 48
Issue 1
Start page 538
End page 547
Total pages 10
Place of publication London, United Kingdom
Publisher I W A
Language eng
Subject 2312 Water Science and Technology
2311 Waste Management and Disposal
2310 Pollution
2302 Ecological Modelling
Abstract The stability of five illicit drug markers in wastewater was tested under different sewer conditions using laboratory-scale sewer reactors. Wastewater was spiked with deuterium labelled isotopes of cocaine, benzoyl ecgonine, methamphetamine, MDMA and 6-acetyl morphine to avoid interference from the native isotopes already present in the wastewater matrix. The sewer reactors were operated at 20°C and pH 7.5, and wastewater was sampled at 0, 0.25, 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 6, 9 and 12h to measure the transformation/degradation of these marker compounds. The results showed that while methamphetamine, MDMA and benzoyl ecgonine were stable in the sewer reactors, cocaine and 6-acetyl morphine degraded quickly. Their degradation rates are significantly higher than the values reportedly measured in wastewater alone (without biofilms). All the degradation processes followed first order kinetics. Benzoyl ecgonine and morphine were also formed from the degradation of cocaine and 6-acetyl morphine, respectively, with stable formation rates throughout the test. These findings suggest that, in sewage epidemiology, it is essential to have relevant information of the sewer system (i.e. type of sewer, hydraulic retention time) in order to accurately back-estimate the consumption of illicit drugs. More research is required to look into detailed sewer conditions (e.g. temperature, pH and ratio of biofilm area to wastewater volume among others) to identify their effects on the fate of illicit drug markers in sewer systems.
Keyword Biofilms
Illicit drugs
Sewage epidemiology
Transformation kinetics
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Available online: 16 October 2013.

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