Did you know that more than half of a dose of the common antibiotic amoxicillin moves right through the body and is excreted unchanged? That drug ends up in the sewer system and eventually at the local wastewater treatment plant, along with hundreds of other pharmaceutical compounds, antibacterials and related chemicals. Most municipal wastewater plants receive a constant stream of so-called micropollutants such as amoxicillin, present at levels in the part per billion or part per trillion range. Since these plants aren’t built to remove micropollutants, they pass right through and end up in our rivers and lakes. This is a growing concern, since many of these pollutants can eventually affect aquatic life and may also appear in drinking water supplies.
Michael Judge and Karanveer Singh of the Chemical and Biosciences program are currently working on a project, funded by the college Applied Research Department and the National Research Council of Canada, which is examining possible methods of removing micropollutants from wastewater. The project involves an extensive literature review of the existing methods, as a first step towards formulating a more ambitious research endeavor to investigate optimized removal processes. In addition, Karanveer is carrying out preliminary research into the optimization of high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) as a means of following the removal of selected micropollutants.