Australian Centre for Water
and Environmental Biotechnology

New paper makes splash online

Thursday, 20 June 2019

A new paper from UQ water researchers has made a splash online.

The paper Removal of Pharmaceuticals and Illicit Drugs from Wastewater Due to Ferric Dosing in Sewers was posted to the Reddit Science page on June 18, where it received over 31,000 upvotes, driving it to the popular page where it can be seen by millions worldwide.

The increasing amount of organic micropollutants such as pharmaceuticals and other drugs that are found in wastewater is an ongoing cause for concern for the environment.

Mr Jagadeeshkumar Kulandaivelu, AWMC research scholar and the first author on the paper, was very excited by the strong interest in his publication.

Ferric salt dosing is commonly used to control corrosion in sewers, which causes multibillion-dollar damage every year.

This paper found that adding iron salts to sewers not only reduces corrosion & odour but also helps to remove micropollutants before the wastewater enters the treatment plant.

“Removing pharmaceuticals and other drugs from the waste stream will have a positive effect not only on the treatment process but also for the environment,” Mr Kulandaivelu said.

According to Australian National Drug Strategy survey (2016), 4 in 10 people either smoked daily, drank alcohol in risky quantities or used an illicit drug in 12 months in Australia.

These drugs are released into the system when people urinate, or flush unused medicines down the toilet.

Some of these organic micropollutants are resistant to treatment processes and end up in the aquatic systems.

Unfortunately, there are few studies available on the effect of these organic micropollutants on human health.

Dr Guangming Jiang, Jaga’s PhD supervisor and the corresponding author on the paper, said that it was great to see the public so interested in wastewater treatment.

 “Iron dosing is actually the most widely used chemical in Australia for the control of sewer odour and corrosion,” said Dr Jiang.

“It is not new in that aspect, but to know we can use it for the removal of many trace micropollutants is really fantastic - it’s two benefits for the price of one.”

The papers attention score has risen to 79 over the past few days, putting it in the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric, and continues to be shared on Twitter.


Removal of Pharmaceuticals and Illicit Drugs from Wastewater Due to Ferric Dosing in Sewers
Jagadeeshkumar Kulandaivelu, Jianfa Gao, Yarong Song, Sohan Shrestha, Xuan Li, Jiaying Li, Katrin Doederer, Jurg Keller, Zhiguo Yuan, Jochen F. Mueller, and Guangming Jiang

Environmental Science & Technology 2019 53 (11), 6245-6254

DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.8b07155