Hospital wastewater treatment by fungal bioreactor: Removal efficiency for pharmaceuticals and endocrine disruptor compounds

Hospital wastewater treatment by fungal bioreactor: Removal efficiency for pharmaceuticals and endocrine disruptor compounds

Science of the Total Environment 493 (2014) 365–376 Contents lists available at ScienceDirect Science of the Total Environment journal homepage: www...

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Science of the Total Environment 493 (2014) 365–376

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Science of the Total Environment journal homepage:

Hospital wastewater treatment by fungal bioreactor: Removal efficiency for pharmaceuticals and endocrine disruptor compounds Carles Cruz-Morató a, Daniel Lucas b, Marta Llorca b, Sara Rodriguez-Mozaz b, Marina Gorga c, Mira Petrovic b,d, Damià Barceló b,c, Teresa Vicent a, Montserrat Sarrà a, Ernest Marco-Urrea a,⁎ a

Departament d'Enginyeria Química, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), 08193 Bellaterra, Spain Catalan Institute for Water Research (ICRA), H2O Building, Scientific and Technological Park of the University of Girona, 101-E-17003 Girona, Spain Water and Soil Quality Research Group, Department of Environmental Chemistry, IDAEA-CSIC, Jordi Girona 18-26, 08034 Barcelona, Spain d Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA), Barcelona, Spain b c

H I G H L I G H T S • • • •

Hospital wastewaters are treated in a fungal bioreactor with Trametes versicolor. We study the removal of emerging contaminants under sterile and non-sterile conditions. 46 out of 51 detected pharmaceuticals are degraded in non-sterile conditions. Diclofenac and the human metabolites of carbamazepine are efficiently removed.

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Article history: Received 5 March 2014 Received in revised form 19 May 2014 Accepted 25 May 2014 Available online 19 June 2014 Editor: Kevin V. Thomas Keywords: Pharmaceuticals Endocrine disruptors Hospital wastewater Trametes versicolor Bioreactor

a b s t r a c t Hospital effluents contribute to the occurrence of emerging contaminants in the environment due to their high load of pharmaceutical active compounds (PhACs) and some endocrine disruptor compounds (EDCs). Nowadays, hospital wastewaters are co-treated with urban wastewater; however, the dilution factor and the inefficiency of wastewater treatment plants in the removal of PhACs and EDCs make inappropriate the co-treatment of both effluents. In this paper, a new alternative to pre-treat hospital wastewater concerning the removal of PhACs and EDCs is presented. The treatment was carried out in a batch fluidized bed bioreactor under sterile and non-sterile conditions with Trametes versicolor pellets. Results on non-sterile experiments pointed out that 46 out of the 51 detected PhACs and EDCs were partially to completely removed. The total initial PhAC amount into the bioreactor was 8185 μg in sterile treatment and 8426 μg in non-sterile treatment, and the overall load elimination was 83.2% and 53.3% in their respective treatments. In addition, the Microtox test showed reduction of wastewater toxicity after the treatment. Hence, the good efficiency of the fungal treatment regarding removal of the wide diversity of PhACs and EDCs detected in hospital effluents is demonstrated. © 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction Pharmaceutical active compounds (PhACs) and endocrine disruptor compounds (EDCs) comprise some of the most common groups of organic micro-contaminants present in different environmental water compartments, and have been detected at the range of ng L−1 to μg L−1 (Heberer, 2002; Tixier et al., 2003; Kasprzyk-Hordern et al., 2008; Sim et al., 2010). The primary source of these emerging contaminants' pollution in the environment has been shown to be through wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluents (Deblonde ⁎ Corresponding author at: Departament d'Enginyeria Química, Escola d'Enginyeria, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Cerdanyola del Vallès, Spain. Tel.: +34 93 586 85 31; fax: +34 93 581 20 13. E-mail address: [email protected] (E. Marco-Urrea). 0048-9697/© 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

and Hartemann, 2013; Michael et al., 2013). WWTPs are not designed to remove these contaminants and, therefore, many of them pass unchanged reaching surface water (Verlicchi et al., 2012a). PhACs are found at high concentrations (up to mg L−1) in hospital wastewaters (Gomez et al., 2006; Thomas et al., 2007; Lin and Tsai, 2009; Verlicchi et al., 2012b; Santos et al., 2013). Some authors consider this effluent as the most important source of this type of pollutants in the WWTP influents (Verlicchi et al., 2012b). Nevertheless, other authors do not agree, reporting that the amount of PhACs contributed by the hospital effluent is insignificant compared to the large flow and the low concentration of PhACs present in urban wastewater (Le Corre et al., 2012). Hospital effluents are considered, in general, to have the same pollutant load as urban wastewaters (in terms of biological oxygen demand (BOD) and nitrogen compounds) and in most countries are discharged into public sewer networks being co-treated with urban


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wastewater (Le Corre et al., 2012). However, the scientific community recommends the pre-treatment of hospital wastewater to enhance the degradation of organic contaminants for further downstream treatments and because co-treatment is based on dilution of pollutants (Altin et al., 2003; Pauwels and Verstraete, 2006; McArdell and Moser, 2010). Hospital wastewater is about 2–150 times more concentrated in some micropollutants depending on the therapeutic class of the pharmaceutical (Verlicchi et al., 2010). The separate treatment of hospital wastewater allows the specific degradation of these pollutants since they could be more accessible for biological treatments (Kovalova et al., 2012). In the last years, the risk associated with the occurrence of PhACs and EDCs in water resources has been also intensively studied. Ecotoxicological studies have shown the potential risk to the environment of the hospital wastewater (Jean et al., 2012; Orias and Perrodin, 2013). For example, Santos et al. (2013) identified recently several PhACs in hospital wastewater as potentially hazardous to aquatic organisms, showing that especial attention must be paid to antibiotics. Based on all above studies, it might be considered that the toxicity of hospital wastewater is generally higher than measured in urban effluents. In addition, although chronic ecotoxicity data is scarce compared to acute studies, accumulative effects have been shown to damage some ecosystems (Stuart et al., 2012). First studies regarding the treatment of hospital wastewater by physicochemical processes, as advanced oxidation processes, nanofiltration, reverse osmosis and powdered activated carbon adsorption, have appeared recently (Beier et al., 2010; Koehler et al., 2012; Nielsen et al., 2013; Kovalova et al., 2013). Even though the majority of these techniques are very efficient in the PhACs removal, the main drawbacks are the formation of undesirable and sometimes toxic transformation products, the high energy consumption and the high operational cost (Oller et al., 2011). To date, the only biological process that has been developed to treat hospital wastewater is membrane bioreactor (MBR) treatment. Beier et al. (2012) reported the high efficiency in removing trace pollutants for hospital wastewater, but PhACs were not included as target compounds. Otherwise, Kovalova et al. (2012) reported an overall PhACs load elimination of only 22% in a pilot-scale MBR installed and operated for one year at a Swiss hospital. In addition, it is noteworthy that domestic wastewater treatment using MBR processes has demonstrated its inefficiency to degrade some recalcitrant PhACs as for example the psychiatric drug carbamazepine (Radjenović et al., 2009). On the other hand, white-rot fungi (WRF) have demonstrated their capability to transform and/or remove PhACs (Cruz-Morató et al., 2012) and EDCs (Cabana et al., 2007; Blánquez and Guieysse, 2008). In particular, Trametes versicolor has shown to be an attractive fungus for designing effective bioremediation strategies for emerging contaminants due to their unspecific oxidative enzymatic system, which includes ligninolytic extracellular enzymes as laccase and peroxidases, as well as intracellular enzymes as the cytochrome P450 system (Asgher et al., 2008). First studies of PhAC removal with T. versicolor were carried out under sterile conditions with defined medium, in an Erlenmeyer scale and with single spiked pollutants. PhACs that have been widely degraded by T. versicolor under above conditions include β-blockers (MarcoUrrea et al., 2010a), antiinflammatories (Marco-Urrea et al., 2009, 2010b,c,d), antibiotics (Rodríguez-Rodríguez et al., 2012; Prieto et al., 2011), psychiatric drugs (Jelić et al., 2012), iodinated contrast agents (Rode and Müller, 1998) and endocrine disruptor chemicals (Blánquez and Guieysse, 2008; Cajthalm et al., 2009), among others. In addition, continuous treatments in air-pulsed fluidized bioreactors for the elimination of the single lipid regulator clofibric acid under sterile conditions showed removal percentages of 80% at the steady state when fed at 160 μg L−1 (Cruz-Morató et al., 2013a). The use in laboratory studies of real non-sterile wastewaters, where many contaminants (at concentrations ranging from ng L−1 to mg L−1) and microorganisms are present, provides a basis to approach real scale

processes. However, to date few studies have been published regarding processes of real wastewater with fungi in a bioreactor and none of them have used hospital wastewater. Zhang and Geiβen (2012) observe 80% removal of carbamazepine (spiked at 5 mg L− 1) in non-sterile urban wastewater by the WRF Phanerochaete chrysosporium, immobilized in polyether foam and achieving stable continuous operation during 100 days in a bioreactor. In an attempt to remove bisphenol A and diclofenac under non-sterile conditions, Yang et al. (2013) performed on a fungal membrane bioreactor operating in continuous mode with T. versicolor and a hydraulic retention time of two days. Stable removal of spiked bisphenol A (80–90%) and diclofenac (55%) was obtained with an influent concentration of 475 and 112 μg L−1, respectively. Cruz-Morató et al. (2013b) applied T. versicolor pellets to non-sterile urban wastewater in a batch fluidized bed bioreactor containing PhACs at their environmental concentration. The authors observed the complete removal of 7 out of the 10 initially detected PhACs, and 2 out of that 10 were partially removed. Also, a reduction in the toxicity analyzed by the Microtox test was observed, demonstrating the feasibility of the treatment. The treatment in an air pulsed bioreactor with fungal pellets have not only showed the efficiency in the removal of PhACs, but also showed the efficiency for specific industrial effluents as dyes demonstrating its potential in bioremediation (Blánquez et al., 2008). The aim of this study is to test the ability of the WRF T. versicolor to degrade the wide array of PhACs and EDCs present in hospital wastewaters under non-sterile conditions. 2. Materials and methods 2.1. Fungi and chemicals T. versicolor (ATCC# 42530) was from the American Type Culture Collection and was maintained by subculturing on 2% malt extract agar slants (pH 4.5) at 25 °C. Subcultures were routinely made every 30 days. Pellet production was done as previously described by Blánquez et al. (2004). Pellets obtained by this process were washed with sterile deionized water. All pharmaceutical standards and isotopically labeled compounds, used as internal standards were of the highest purity available. Compounds were purchased from Sigma-Aldrich (Steinheim, Germany), US Pharmacopeia USP (MD, USA), European Pharmacopoeia EP (Strasbourg, France), Toronto Research Chemicals TRC (Ontario, Canada) and CDN isotopes (Quebec, Canada). Further information can be consulted at Gros et al. (2012). The individual standard solutions as well as isotopically labeled internal standard solutions were prepared according to Gros et al. (2012). All standards for EDCs, caffeine and isotopically labeled compounds (for their analytical normalization) were of high purity grade (N 98%). More detailed information can be seen in Supplementary Material SM1. HPLC grade methanol, acetonitrile, water (Lichrosolv) and formic acid 98% were supplied by Merck (Darmstadt, Germany). Ammonium hydroxide and Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid disodium salt solution (Na2EDTA) at 0.1 mol L−1 were from Panreac (Barcelona). Glucose, ammonium tartrate dibasic, malt extract and other chemicals were purchased from Sigma-Aldrich (Barcelona, Spain). 2.2. Hospital wastewater Hospital wastewater samples were collected from the main sewer of Girona University Hospital of Girona Dr. Josep Trueta (Girona, Spain). Two samples of 20 L were collected directly from the sewer manifold of the hospital. Sample 1 was collected on January 2012 and sample 2 was collected on April 2012. The characteristics of the wastewater and the initial concentration of pollutants are shown in Table 1 and Table SM2, respectively. Sample 1 was sterilized at 121 °C for 30 min. Sample 2 was directly used at non-sterile conditions. Those samples were taken at different days.

C. Cruz-Morató et al. / Science of the Total Environment 493 (2014) 365–376 Table 1 Characteristics of the hospital wastewater samples used in the sterile and non-sterile treatments. Samples 1 and 2 were taken on January 2012 and April 2012, respectively. Hospital wastewater samples

COD (mg L−1)

TOC (mg L−1)

N–NH+ 4 (mg L−1)

TSS (mg L−1)

Conductivity (μg cm−1)


Sample 1 (sterile treatment) Sample 2 (non-sterile treatment)













2.3. Batch bioreactor treatment A glass air fluidized bed bioreactor with a useful volume of 10 L (Blánquez et al., 2008) was used to carry out the treatment of hospital wastewater under sterile and non-sterile conditions. Approximately, 1.4 g dry weight (dw) biomass L−1 was inoculated into the bioreactor. Fungal biomass was maintained fluidized by air pulses generated by an electrovalve. The electrovalve was controlled by a cyclic timer (1 s open, 5 s close) and the air flow was 12 L h−1. The bioreactor was equipped with a pH controller in order to maintain pH at 4.5 by the addition of NaOH and the temperature was maintained at 25 °C. As a nutrient source, glucose and ammonium tartrate were fed continuously from their stock solution (300 g L−1 and 675 mg L− 1, respectively) at a flow rate of 0.96 mL h−1 to ensure an uptake rate of 0.439 g glucose g−1 dw pellets day−1 and 1.98 mg ammonium tartrate g−1dw pellets day−1 (Casas et al., 2013). For the sterile treatment, both the bioreactor and the wastewater were autoclaved at 121 °C for 30 min. In both non-sterile and sterile treatments, 200 mL samples were taken from the middle of the bioreactor at times 0 min, 15 min, 8 h, 1 day, 2 days, 5 days and 8 days.

2.4. Analytical procedures 2.4.1. Analysis of micropollutants The method developed by Gros et al. (2012) was applied for the analysis of PhACs. Pre-concentration of samples was performed by SPE (Solid Phase Extraction) using a Baker (J.T.Baker®) and analysis was carried out with an Ultra-Performance liquid chromatography system (Waters Corp. Milford, MA, USA) coupled to a 5500 QqLit, triple quadrupole-linear ion trap mass spectrometer (5500 QTRAP, Applied Biosystems, Foster City, CA, USA). Analytical parameters as limits of detection and quantification are showed in the previously published article (Gros et al., 2012). EDCs and related compounds were analyzed by on-line turbulent flow chromatography coupled to a LC–(ESI)–MS/MS system through the combination of methodologies previously developed by Gorga et al. (2013, in press). An EQuan on-line sample enrichment system (Thermo Fisher Scientific) was used before chromatographic separation using turbulent flow chromatographic columns. An Analytical chromatograph was coupled to a TSQ Vantage triple quadrupole mass spectrometer (Thermo Fisher Scientific, San Jose, CA). More detailed information about the chromatographic method can be seen in Table SM1 and Supplementary Material SM2 in the Supporting Information.

2.4.2. Vibrio fischeri luminescence test (Microtox® test) A Microtox bioluminescence assay was used to perform a toxicity test. This method relies on the decrease in the percentage of emitted light by the bioluminescent bacterium V. fischeri upon contact with a filtered sample at pH 7. The 50% effective concentration, EC50, was measured after 15 min of exposure. Effluent toxicity was expressed in toxicity units. Toxicity units (TU) were calculated as TU = 100 ∕ EC50. The


experimental samples tested were collected from both sterile and non-sterile reactor treatments at their corresponding times. 2.4.3. Other analyses Laccase activity was assayed using a modified version of the method for the determination of manganese peroxidase (MnP) as described elsewhere (Kaal et al., 1993). The reaction mixture used consisted in 200 μL of 250 mM sodium malonate at pH 4.5, 50 μL of 20 mM of 2,6dimethoxyphenol (DMP) and 600 μL of sample. DMP is oxidized by laccase even in the absence of a cofactor. Changes in the absorbance at 468 nm were monitored for 2 min on a Varian Cary 3 UV–vis spectrophotometer at 30 °C. One activity unit (U) was defined as the number of micromoles of DMP oxidized per minute. The molar extinction coefficient of DMP was 24.8 mM−1 cm−1 (Wariishi et al., 1992). Biomass pellet dry weight was determined after vacuum-filtering the cultures through pre-weighed glass-fiber filters Whatman GF/A (Barcelona, Spain). The filters containing the biomass pellets were placed on glass plates and dried at 100 °C to constant weight. Glucose concentration was measured with a YSI 2000 enzymatic analyzer from Yellow Springs Instrument and Co. (Yellow Springs, OH, USA). Total organic carbon (TOC), total suspended solids (TSS) and volatile suspended solids (VSS) were analyzed according to APHA (1995). The N–NH+ 4 concentration and chemical oxygen demand (COD) were analyzed by using commercial kits (LCH302 and LCK114 respectively, Hach Lange, Düsseldorf, Germany). 3. Results and discussion Analysis of PhACs and EDCs in raw hospital wastewater showed that 49 (sample 1) and 51 (sample 2) out of the 99 analyzed compounds were detected in these effluents (Table SM2). The most common families of compounds detected were analgesics, antibiotics, psychiatric drugs, compounds that show endocrine disruptor effects and X-ray contrast media, which correspond with the main types of drugs used in hospitals (Verlicchi et al., 2010). Results from the hospital wastewater treatment by T. versicolor are referred to as removal percentage since we cannot distinguish between degradation and adsorption in the bioreactor experiments. However, our previous results have shown the ability of this fungus to degrade a wide array of pharmaceuticals and also the identification of the degradation products (see for example Marco-Urrea et al., 2009). Our results show a partial or total removal of 43 and 46 PhACs and EDCs out of initially detected in both sterile (sample 1) and nonsterile treatments (sample 2), respectively (Table SM2). The total amount of PhACs and EDCs initially detected in both samples was 8185 μg and 8426 μg in samples 1 and 2, respectively (Table SM3). After the treatment, these amounts were reduced up to 1374.2 μg and 3936 μg, which represent 83.2% and 53.3% removal, in sterile and nonsterile treatments respectively. The lower removal detected in the non-sterile treatment could be explained by the higher concentrations of caffeine (149 μg L−1) and iopromide (419.7 μg L−1), which correspond with some of the most difficult compounds to be degraded by the fungus (b40% of removal). Disregarding caffeine and iopromide concentrations, the overall removal of PhACs and EDCs was higher than 94% in both treatments. These overall results indicate that PhACs present in hospital wastewater can be removed not only in the sterile batch bioreactor treatment by T. versicolor, but also in a non-sterile treatment. These results are in agreement with previous investigations from our research group concerning the treatment of urban wastewater by T. versicolor, where complete removal of 7 out of the 10 initially detected PhACs was achieved (Cruz-Morató et al., 2013b). Regarding bioreactor operation (Fig. SM1, Supplementary material), in both sterile and non-sterile batch bioreactor treatments the glucose was totally consumed through all the experiments and laccase production reached a maximum of 320 U L−1 after 5 days of the non-sterile


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treatment. This fact indicates that the fungus was active throughout the experiment. Glucose was added at the consumption rate of the fungus to avoid increasing the amount of soluble chemical oxygen demand of the wastewater after the process. N–NH+ 4 was totally consumed after 2 days and biomass concentration increased up to 2 g d.w. L−1. Growth may be due to the fact that hospital wastewater contained nutrients (i.e. nitrogen) (Table 1). Under non-sterile conditions, we observe that after 5 days of the treatment the broth contained in the bioreactor turned cloudy, probably due to the growth of bacteria and the breakdown of the fungal pellet into free mycelium, leading to an increase in viscosity. This effect was not observed in the sterile treatment. Hence, further research is needed in order to find a solution to extend the treatment, for example considering purge and biomass renovation strategies (Blánquez et al., 2008) or by reducing bacteria concentration with a pre-treatment. The detailed discussion about different target compounds studied along the treatment is presented in the following sections.

3.1. Analgesics/anti-inflammatories The initial total amount of analgesics into the reactor was 1475 μg (18% from the total PhAC and EDC amount) and 1511 μg (17.9% from the total amount), respectively in both sterile and non-sterile treatments, leading to a reduction of up to 9.8 μg and 17.7 μg

corresponding to eliminations of 99.3% and 98.8%, respectively (Table SM3). Among analgesics/anti-inflammatories, the highest concentrations initially found correspond to acetaminophen (114.4 μg L− 1– 109.3 μg L−1, respectively in samples 1 and 2). In descending order of concentration, naproxen, ibuprofen, ketoprofen, diclofenac, phenazone, codeine and salicylic acid were found, with values ranging from 0.05 to 13.7 μg L−1 (Table SM2). Due to their high human consumption, it is not surprising to detect these compounds around 10–100 μg L−1 in hospital effluents (Verlicchi et al., 2010). All detected analgesic/anti-inflammatory drugs were, in general, completely removed in both treatments (Fig. 1). Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxen, diclofenac and phenazone were removed over 80% after 1 day and reached total elimination on the following days. The high removal for diclofenac is particularly remarkable since this compound is usually not efficiently removed in conventional wastewater treatment plants (Verlicchi et al., 2012a). The observed high removal efficiency of the fungus was already proved in a previous work of the group (Marco-Urrea et al., 2010b), that describes removals higher than 94% in batch experiments performed at 45 μg L−1 diclofenac concentration. Removal rate of ketoprofen and codeine was slower than the former, since they needed 5 days to reach total removal. Piroxicam was not detected in the raw wastewater; however, its concentration starts to increase after 5 h of the non-sterile treatment and rise to the value of 0.15 μg L−1 at day 5 remaining constant until the end of the

Fig. 1. Analgesic/anti-inflammatory levels during the hospital batch bioreactor treatment. Sterile treatment (A) and non-sterile treatment (B). Bars from black to pale gray correspond to different sampling times along the treatment.

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treatment. On the contrary, no removal in the non-sterile treatment was observed for salicylic acid and dexamethasone, although they were found at low initial concentrations. The anti-inflammatory drugs acetaminophen, ibuprofen and ketoprofen are also successfully removed in conventional activated sludge treatment, whereas lower elimination (around 50%) was observed for the others (Verlicchi et al., 2012a). For this type of pharmaceuticals, it is known that their removal efficiency is strongly related to the initial influent concentration of each target compound when extended sludge age biological process is used (Yu et al., 2009). 3.2. Antibiotics The total initial amount of antibiotics was 569 μg (6.9% from the total PhAC amount) and 239 μg (2.8% from the total amount), in samples 1 and 2 respectively, with a reduction of up to 79.3 μg and 22.1 μg corresponding to eliminations in both treatments of 86.1% and 90.8%, respectively (Table SM3). Almost all antibiotics were either partially (being 26% the lowest removal ratio observed for azithromycin) or completely removed (Fig. 2). However, the rate of elimination was lower than that observed for analgesics, since more than 5 days was needed to achieve total removal. The initial concentration in the non-sterile treatment (ranging from 0.008 μg L− 1 to 1 μg L−1) of some antibiotics as sulfamethoxazole,


trimethoprim, metronidazole and its hydroxylated metabolite, dimetridazole and erythromycin was relatively significant lower than in the sterile treatment (ranging from 2 to 5 μg L−1) (Table SM2). Ofloxacin (31.9 and 3.34 μg L− 1), in sample 1, and ciprofloxacin (12.05 and 13.04 μg L− 1) in sample 2 were the two antibiotics identified at a relative higher initial concentration. They were completely removed in both treatments; with an exception of ciprofloxacin in the sterile treatment that was only removed 69% after 8 days. Prieto et al. (2011) reported values over 90% of ciprofloxacin degradation by T. versicolor after 6 days in a sterilized defined medium spiked at 2 mg L− 1, which despite of the higher spiked concentration is in agreement with our results. Clarithromycin (2.2 μg L− 1 ) and azithromycin (1.37 μg L− 1) detected only in sample 2 of the hospital wastewater were removed over 80% after 5 days of the non-sterile treatment. In municipal wastewater treatments plants, the range of removal efficiency of antibiotics is generally wide depending on the antibiotic considered (Verlicchi et al., 2012a). Removal percentages observed in conventional treatments for the antibiotics detected in the present study vary also from 15% to 98%. Ciprofloxacin and ofloxacin are removed in conventional treatment around 70% as average, mostly attributed to the adsorption in the sludge (Jia et al., 2012), sulfamethoxazole is removed around 80%, and trimethoprim and metronidazole are removed around 40%. Comparing this data with our results it can be

Fig. 2. Antibiotic profiles during the hospital batch bioreactor treatment. Sterile treatment (A) and non-sterile treatment (B). Bars from black to pale gray correspond to different sampling times along the treatment.


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concluded that a treatment with fungi not only could remove the part of antibiotics than cannot be removed by conventional treatments, but also could prevent the accumulation of some of this PhACs (as ciprofloxacin) into the sludge, which can be used afterwards as compost in farmlands so that antibiotics can also find their way to contaminate the environment. 3.3. Psychiatric drugs The initial total amount of psychiatric drugs was 3658 μg (44.7% from the total PhAC amount) and 108 μg (1.3% from the total amount) with a reduction of up to 232 μg and 4.93 μg corresponding to eliminations of 93.7% and 95.4% (Table SM3), respectively in the sterile and non-sterile treatments. The profiles of psychiatric drugs during both treatments by T. versicolor are depicted in Fig. 3. Carbamazepine, one of the most studied compounds due to its persistence in conventional wastewater treatments (Verlicchi et al., 2012a; Jelić et al., 2011) was detected at 0.44 μg L−1 and 0.06 μg L−1 in samples 1 and 2, respectively. Results showed that this compound was not removed in both the sterile and non-sterile treatments; on the contrary its concentration seems to increase. This behavior was also reported in previous experiments regarding the fungal treatment of urban wastewater (Cruz-Morató et al., 2013b), and in conventional activated sludge treatments (Verlicchi et al., 2012a). This phenomenon is usually attributed to the

deconjugation of the conjugated forms of carbamazepine back to the parent compound during the treatment (Jelić et al., 2011), leading to an increase in the concentration of the latter. However, when carbamazepine is present in a deconjugated form in a defined medium, T. versicolor was able to degrade it efficiently (Jelić et al., 2012). The highest psychiatric drug concentration observed in both wastewater samples corresponds to the metabolite of carbamazepine, 10,11epoxycarbamazepine, which was measured at 339 and 8.98 μg L−1 in samples 1 and 2 respectively (Table SM2). This is indeed the main metabolite of carbamazepine in humans. After administration, approximately 72% of carbamazepine is absorbed and subsequently metabolized, while 28% is unchanged and discharged through the feces (Zhang et al., 2012). Because of the high metabolization in human bodies and to the high consumption of carbamazepine in hospitals, it is not surprising that 10,11-epoxycarbamazepine was one of the principal compounds detected in these effluents. Total elimination of this compound was observed after both treatments presented in this study. Another carbamazepine human metabolite, 2-hydroxycarbamazepine, detected at 25.2 μg L−1 only in sample 1, was also completely removed after the sterile treatment. It is noteworthy that the generation of acridone, another metabolite of carbamazepine (Jelić et al., 2012), detected during the performance of the sterile bioreactor treatment, reached values of 2.5 μg L−1 after 1 day and consecutively removed to be remained at 0.29 μg L−1 at the end (Fig. 3 and Table SM2).

Fig. 3. Psychiatric drug profiles during the hospital batch bioreactor treatment. Sterile treatment (A) and non-sterile treatment (B). Bars from black to pale gray correspond to different sampling times along the treatment.

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Other psychiatric drugs as lorazepam (0.05 μg L−1 and 0.2 μg L−1) and citalopram (0.44 μg L− 1 and 0.26 μg L− 1) were not removed in the batch bioreactor treatment by T. versicolor. The exception was in the non-sterile treatment where the citalopram concentration was reduced by around 80% after 5 days. Lorazepam concentration increases to 0.64 μg L− 1 after 8 days of sterile treatment. The same behavior was observed in conventional treatments (Gracia-Lor et al., 2012). Venlafaxine was detected at 0.4 μg L−1 and 0.68 μg L−1 in samples 1 and 2 respectively. This compound is one of the most frequently detected psychiatric drugs in wastewaters around the world and it is found in the range of ng L−1 to mg L−1 (Rúa-Gómez and Püttmann, 2012; Yuan et al., 2013). Therefore, special attention should be paid to this compound due to its recalcitrance in activated sludge treatment plants (Gracia-Lor et al., 2012) and therefore, reaching surface water and being able to impact the environment. In the sterile hospital wastewater treatment venlafaxine was 50% removed, demonstrating almost its partial removal by T. versicolor. In the non-sterile treatment more than 90% was removed after 5 days. As far as the author's knowledge, it is the first time that the degradation of venlafaxine by white-rot fungi is reported. We hypothesize that the higher removal of venlafaxine observed in the non-sterile bioreactor is probably due to the synergistic action of fungal and bacterial enzymes. Pravastatin (0.38 μg L−1), olanzapine (0.14 μg L−1) and sertraline (0.07 μg L−1) were only found in sample 2 and they were totally removed after 8 days of the treatment. In addition, fluoxetine and paroxetine were not found initially, but were detected during the treatment at a concentration lower than 0.125 μg L−1. However, both fluoxetine and paroxetine were totally removed at the end of the treatment. 3.4. Endocrine disruptor compounds and related compounds EDCs studied here include several groups of known and suspected endocrine disrupters: i) degradation products of industrial detergents such as nonyl and octylphenols (NP and OP, respectively), nonyl and octyl phenol mono- and di-ethoxylates (NP1EO, NPO2EO, OP1EO and OP2EO, respectively) and nonyl and octyl phenol carboxylates (NP1EC and OP1EC, respectively); ii) polishing agents in dish washing tabs (1Hbenzotriazole and tolytriazole); iii) preservatives in cosmetic products (methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, and benzylparaben); iv) antiseptics (triclosan and triclocarban); and iv) a plastic monomer and plasticizer (bisphenol A, BPA). The initial total amount of EDCs was 124 μg (1.5% from the total amount) and 704 μg (8.4% from the total amount) with a reduction of up to 23.1 μg and 180 μg corresponding to eliminations of 81.3% and 74.4%, in the sterile and non-sterile treatments, respectively (Table SM3). Among all chemicals that present high endocrine disruptor effect, the highest concentration detected in the hospital wastewater corresponds to benzotriazole (5.57 μg L− 1 and 56.0 μg L− 1 for samples 1 and 2 respectively) (Table SM2). In descending order of concentration, OP2EO, OP and BPA were also detected in the raw hospital wastewater (ranging values from 0.11 to 7.5 μg L− 1). The profile of these compounds during sterile and non-sterile batch bioreactor treatments is depicted in Fig. 4. The total initial amount of the chemical marker caffeine was 757 μg (sterilized wastewater) and 1490 μg (non-sterilized wastewater). After iopromide, caffeine was the second most abundant compound, although it was scarcely eliminated (7.9%) by T. versicolor under sterile conditions. However, partial removal (38.4%) was observed in the non-sterile treatment, indicating that maybe other microorganisms are involved in caffeine removal. For instance, removal efficiencies of caffeine over 98% have been observed in conventional wastewater treatment plants evidencing that bacteria can readily remove this compound (Ratola et al., 2012). Hence, although no elimination has been observed during a possible pre-treatment by T. versicolor, caffeine can be removed in conventional sludge systems. In contrast most of the


EDCs were partially (over 70%) or completely removed after the nonsterile treatment. However, the concentration of OP2EO, which is an intermediate transformation product, increased throughout the treatment. 3.5. Other pharmaceuticals The X-ray contrast agent iopromide is one of the common PhACs detected at higher concentration in raw hospital wastewater (104.6 and 419.7 μg L−1) (Table SM2). For instance, Kovalova et al. (2013) found that iodinated contrast media represented 95% (by mass loading) of all measured micropollutants in a hospital wastewater. Here, the total initial amount was 1046 μg (12.8% from the total PhAC amount) and 4197 μg (49.8% from the total amount) with a reduction after the treatment of up to 255 μg and 2769 μg, corresponding to eliminations of 75.5% and 34.0% of the sterile and non-sterile treatments, respectively (Table SM3). Iopromide is scarcely removed by activated sludge (Miège et al., 2009; Verlicchi et al., 2012a). Its persistence is due to the fact that, as a diagnostic agent, it has been designed to be highly stable. However, in the present treatment removal percentages of 75.5% were achieved under sterile condition whereas the percentage decreased to 34% in the non-sterile treatment (Fig. 5). Engels-Matena (1996) showed that T. versicolor is able to remove iopromide in a defined medium demonstrating partial elimination (60%) after 7 days with a subsequent total elimination after 15 days. It could be considered that the iopromide removal percentages obtained in the present study are greater than reported by Engels-Matena, since the treatment has been applied in a complex real wastewater than in a defined medium. In addition, as showed by Engels-Matena (1996), the percentage removal achieved in the present study could be increased by a longer treatment. The total initial amount of the rest of PhACs was 557 μg (6.8% from the total PhAC amount in sample 1) and 177 μg (2.1% from the total amount in sample 2) with a reduction of up to 76.7 μg and 24.3 μg corresponding to eliminations of 86.2% and 86.3% on the sterile and non-sterile treatments, respectively. Figs. 6 and 7 show the removal profile of antihypertensives, loop diuretics, β-blockers, β2-adrenergic receptor agonists, lipid regulators, histamine H1 and H2 receptor antagonists, calcium channel blockers, anthelmintics, antiplatelet agents and antidiabetic families of PhACs during the batch bioreactor treatment by T. versicolor. Among all PhACs of this section, valsartan, furosemide, atenolol, gemfibrozil, and ranitidine were the most significant compounds detected in raw hospital wastewater with concentration ranging from 4.52 to 15.8 μg L−1. All of them were completely removed (N90% eliminated) in both the sterile and non-sterile treatments, with the exception of atenolol. This βblocker drug was partially removed around 41% and 75% in the sterile and non-sterile treatments, respectively. The other compounds were detected below 1 μg L−1 and most of them were totally removed after the treatment with the exception of hydrochlorothiazide (50% removed at the non-sterile treatment) and losartan (concentration increased more than four-fold over the initial amount probably due to deconjugation reactions). The removal range observed in conventional wastewater treatment plants of the PhACs discussed in this section is very wide (from 10% to 98%). However, all of them showed, as an average, removal efficiencies of 40–60% (Verlicchi et al., 2012a). These values are lower than the ones obtained with the application of T. versicolor in the bioreactor. 3.6. Toxicity assessment (Microtox test) One of the main goals of any treatment aimed to remove pollution from wastewater is to reduce the effluent toxicity. Due to the absence of a widely accepted standard protocol to assess the risk of emerging contaminants in wastewaters, we use the Microtox test since it is used throughout the world as a standard test for aquatic toxicity testing. By using this procedure, we employed the bioluminescent photobacterium


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Fig. 4. Endocrine disruptor compound and caffeine profiles during the hospital batch bioreactor treatment. Sterile treatment (A) and non-sterile treatment (B). Bars from black to pale gray correspond to different sampling times along the treatment.

V. fischeri to determine the change in the toxicity during the treatment of hospital wastewater. Raw hospital wastewater presented different values of toxicity. For example sample 1 showed a TU of 25, which it is considered toxic

(TU N 10) by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, 2004). However, sample 2 showed values of 3 TU. The latter results are similar to those found by Emmanuel et al. (2005), who measured values of 2 TU in raw hospital wastewater using the same organism. The results are nevertheless lower than those observed for sample 1, which could be due to the presence of some chemicals of high toxicity on the sampling day. Finally, the toxicity profile was similar in both treatments. The toxicity remained constant along the first hours in both treatments, but after 5 days the toxicity decreased to values of non-toxicity (below 1 TU). However, at the end of the treatment (8 days), an increase in the toxicity was observed, probably due to the production of toxic byproducts, leading to 8 TU (sterile bioreactor) and 4 TU (non-sterile bioreactor). Nevertheless, these results indicated a reduction of 66% in toxicity compared to the initial sample in the case of the sterile treatment. To make the scaling-up process feasible, the hydraulic time of the bioreactor should be definitively less than 5 days, which is already consistent with the satisfactory removal percentages obtained for most of the targeted pollutants in this period, overcoming the slight increase in toxicity observed here. 4. Conclusion

Fig. 5. Iopromide profiles during the hospital batch bioreactor treatment. Symbols: Sterile treatment (●) and non-sterile treatment (○).

Non-sterile hospital wastewater treatment in a fluidized bed bioreactor by T. versicolor demonstrates to be an efficient strategy for removing PhACs and EDCs in the complex hospital wastewater. 48 out of the 52 detected compounds were partially or completely removed

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Fig. 6. Pharmaceutical profiles during the hospital batch bioreactor treatment. Sterile treatment (A) and non-sterile treatment (B). PhAC families: Antihypertensives (A.1 and B.1), loop diuretics (A.2 and B.2), β-blockers (A.3 and B.3), β2-adrenergic receptor agonists (A.4 and B.4) and lipid regulators (A.5 and B.5). Bars from black to pale gray correspond to different sampling times along the treatment.

after 8 days. Sterile treatment showed that T. versicolor is involved in the removal of these emerging contaminants. The required treatment time to achieve complete removal of the targeted pollutants highly depends on the type of pharmaceutical. For instance, almost complete removal of analgesics was observed within 24 h whereas but 5 days was needed to get similar results for antibiotics. Thus, the selected hydraulic time to scale up the process would be chosen on the basis of the composition of the wastewater and the pollutants considered critical. The fact that the overall percentage of removal of pollutants is similar in both the sterile and non-sterile treatments indicates that T. versicolor is playing a major role on this process and that synergistic interaction between autochthon bacteria and fungus did not enhance the removal yield. This result is also relevant because it indicates that sterility is not a mandatory requirement to apply T. versicolor for this purpose. However, one of the main drawbacks of this process is that after treatment the pH should neutralized since it reaches acidic conditions due to the secretion of organic acids by the fungus. Analgesics are one of the most commonly detected drugs in hospital wastewater with the highest concentrations (from 0.6 μg L−1 to 114 μg L−1) and were completely removed after the treatment. All the studied

antibiotics, detected between 0.08 and 32 μg L−1, were removed over 77% with the exception of azithromycin (partially removed 26%). Psychiatric drugs, including carbamazepine metabolites and the known recalcitrant drug venlafaxine, were detected ranging from 0.006 to 8.9 μg L−1 and removed over 80%. Caffeine was partially removed around 38% while other endocrine disruptors were removed from 75 to 100%. Iopromide showed one of the highest concentrations in hospital wastewater (419 μg L−1) and was only partially removed (34%) after the non-sterile treatment. The other PhACs detected in the hospital wastewater were removed from 50% to 100%. On the other hand, increasing concentrations were observed for some of PhACs, i.e. carbamazepine, estrone, piroxicam. We hypothesize that this increase could be a consequence of deconjugation reactions releasing the target compound. The overall removal percentages obtained here were higher when compared with those obtained by conventional activated sludge systems and membrane reactors. The more recalcitrant compounds in conventional activated sludge (below 50% removed) but highly removed in the treatment with the fungus are: dexamethasone, diclofenac, phenazone, trimethoprim, metronidazole, atenolol, propanolol, metoprolol, ciprofloxacin, ofloxacin, furosemide, ranitidine, venlafaxine and iopromide. Especial attention must be paid in


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Fig. 7. Pharmaceutical profiles during the hospital batch bioreactor treatment. Sterile treatment (A) and non-sterile treatment (B). PhAC families: Histamine H1 and H2 receptor antagonists (A.1 and B.1), calcium channel blockers (A.2 and B.2), anthelmintic (B.3), antiplatelet agent (B.4) and antidiabetic (B.5). Bars from black to pale gray correspond to different sampling times along the treatment.

diclofenac, a recalcitrant compound in WWTP which has been completely removed in the present treatment, and first candidate to be regulated by legislation. These promising results open horizons to the application of fungal technology as pre-treatment of hospital or industrial effluents, avoiding the dilution of other effluents with the least load of PhACs and EDCs. In addition, the decrease of the toxicity over time supports the suitability of this treatment. Conflict of interest The authors do not have any actual or potential conflict of interest including any financial, personal or other relationships with other people or organizations within three years of beginning the submitted work that could inappropriately influence, or be perceived to influence, our work.

Unit 2009-SGR-965). The Department of Chemical Engineering of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) is a member of the Xarxa de Referència en Biotecnologia de la Generalitat de Catalunya (306728/2012). Cruz-Morato C. acknowledges the predoctoral grant from UAB. Daniel Lucas acknowledges the predoctoral grant from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports, Spain (AP-2010-4926). TRARGISA in Girona (Spain) is acknowledged for the collection of hospital wastewater samples. Prof. Barceló acknowledges the support from the Visiting Professor Program of King Saud University. Appendix A. Supplementary data Supplementary data to this article can be found online at http://dx.

Acknowledgments References This work has been supported by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (project CTQ2010-21776-C02), cofinanced by the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and supported by the Generalitat de Catalunya (Consolidated Research Group: Water and Soil Quality

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