In 2017, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency published a report on advanced wastewater treatment for the removal of pharmaceutical residues and stated that advanced treatment should be implemented where it will make the largest difference from an environmental perspective. However, the report also concluded that this need cannot be specified with existing data, but consideration must be made of local conditions. Two considerations are (1) the discharged amount of pharmaceutical into receiving water bodies and (2) the turnover of water in the recipient, where the highest risks are related to recipients with a low water turnover and low dilution. The current project comprised eight different WWTPs distributed throughout the entire County Skåne (Scania) in Sweden, with a population of ca. 1,300,000 persons. In total, 21 of 22 pharmaceuticals were analyzed according to the list proposed by the Swedish Medical Products Agency 2015. The results show that large amounts of pharmaceuticals are released from the WWTPs yearly to Scanian recipients. The total discharge of pharmaceuticals from the eight treatment plants adds up to 71 kg of these 21 substances alone, mainly comprising metoprolol, which is a drug that lowers blood pressure, and the analgesic drug diclofenac. Additionally, carbamazepine, losartan, naproxen and oxazepam were present in significant concentrations. These represented three illnesses that are very common: high blood pressure, inflammation/pain and depression/anxiety. The concentrations were generally in line with previous national Swedish screenings. It was estimated that, when one million cubic meters (1,000,000 m3 ) of wastewater is discharged, almost 4 kg of the 21 pharmaceuticals is released. The total volume wastewater release by the >90 WWTPs in Scania was estimated to 152,887,000 m3, which corresponded to 590 kg/year. The investigated 21 drugs cover only a small part of many hundred pharmaceuticals that are in use in Sweden. Thus, most likely, one or several tons of pharmaceuticals leak out to the Scanian recipients annually. The analysis of river samples shows that the dilution of wastewater is a key parameter in reducing concentrations. However, some locations have remarkably high concentrations, which occur when the volume wastewater is large in relation to the flow in the river. These kinds of regional results are of importance when selecting where advanced treatment should be prioritized in a first instance, as requested by the Swedish EPA.
- Miljövetenskap (10502)