Advanced treatment of wastewater

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The Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management has funded several projects which aim to identify options to reduce the release of pharmaceutical residues to aquatic environment.

Advanced treatment of wastewater

Pharmaceuticals and other hazardous substances are released to our waters through municipal wastewater treatment plants (MWWP). The effects of pharmaceutical substances depend on the sensitivity of the receiving waters. The effects that pharmaceuticals have in the water environment is largely unknown, but hormones such as ethinylestradiol have s been linked to the feminization of male fish and psychotherapeutic drugs have also been reported to alter fish behaviour. Active substances of certain pharmaceuticals have been found way out in the Baltic Sea.

Several strategies are necessary to reduce the release of pharmaceuticals to the environment, ranging from development of new pharmaceuticals, to changes relating to their production, use, waste disposal and wastewater treatment.

MWWPs are not designed to reduce micro pollutants and pharmaceuticals and need to implement new options. Eight projects have received funding 2014-2017. The projects include small, as well as large treatment plants, and different technologies such as activated carbon and ozone treatment. The projects received in total 32 million SEK.

An international conference, “Water and Pharmaceuticals - insights and perspectives for health and environment”, was held 12-13 April 2016.

The projects have contributed to the knowledge how advanced treatment can be implemented in Sweden. A report in English describes the results from the eight projects in popular scientific form. Pdf, 1.5 MB. More information about the specific projects can be found in the publications or at the different organisations websites.


Organisation/ Project leader


Project time

JTI (now RISE)

Pharmaceuticals in blackwater and faecal sludge – treatments and risks


Tekniska verken in Linköping AB

Removal of pharmaceutical residues using ozonation as intermediate process step


Kristianstad University

Full scale treatment of micropollutants


IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute

Sustainable treatment systems for the removal of pharmaceutical residues and other emerging substances


Sweden Water Research, SWR

Treatment of persistent contaminants in wastewater


Umeå University

Evaluation of advanced wastewater full-scale treatment


Lund University

Knowledge synthesis on treatment to remove pharmaceutical residues and other micropollutants


Kristianstad University

Intercalibrated pharmaceutical analysis – a collaborative project to enhance analysis quality. Download report in Swedish Pdf, 7.2 MB..



More information about pharmaceuticals and the environment

Published: 2017-08-10
Updated: 2019-07-04